FOUR BOOKSTORES AND A WRITER

Archer City, Texas is a small, dusty, West Texas town about two and a half hours west of Dallas. It is also famous for being the prototype of Anarene in the book/movie THE LAST PICTURE SHOW by Larry McMurtry, as well as being the home of four enormous used book stores – courtesy of Mr. McMurtry.

Until we were actually there I had no idea of how many books there were. The stores – unimaginatively named #1, #2, #3 and #4 – are housed in very old buildings in the small downtown area. Inside are ten foot tall bookcases. Lots of ten foot tall bookcases, and all full.

Now Mr. McMurtry is selling off Bookstores #s 2, 3 and 4. We sat in on the auction for a while, then wandered over to #1, which will remain open. There’s a showcase room, where the really valuable old books are, then an enormous (all the stores are enormous!) building behind.  With minimal air conditioning. August in West Texas with minimal air conditioning is no fun, especially when it’s 105F+ outside.

I looked through the books, finding some interesting, but most were kind of pricey (they were hard to find collectibles) and we really don’t need any more books. Besides, I don’t do heat well and I was very hot.

After a few minutes I gave up and went back into the showcase room, where the a/c did work. I sat down at the reading table, where, after a few minutes, a little old man came and sat down too. I did a double take.

It was Larry McMurtry himself! One of my all-time idols! He looked either ill or exhausted, because he didn’t speak to anyone unless they spoke to him first, and then only minimally. In spite of wanting to act like the worst kind of fangurl I kept quiet, at least until The Husband came out – his arms full of books, of course – then I couldn’t hold back any longer. I introduced myself and The Husband to Mr. McMurtry and received a cordial but minimal response. He even shook my hand.

While I would have loved to sit and talk with him, it’s still a red letter day that I met him. We’re going back to ArcherCity and explore Bookstore #1 a lot more fully – but only after it cools off!

Find Janis Susan May here

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