Friday, June 3, 2011

The Writer's Almanac for June 3, 2011 - by Garrison Keillor

The Writer's Almanac for June 3, 2011 -by Garrison Keillor

It's the 75th birthday of author Larry McMurtry (1936) (books by this author), born in Wichita Falls, Texas, and raised in nearby Archer City. His hometown is about 80 miles from the town of Thalia, which is the setting for several of McMurtry's novels, like his first, Horseman, Pass By (1961), as well as Leaving Cheyenne(1963) and The Last Picture Show (1966) and its four sequels. He writes a lot about small-town life in Texas, and sometimes he writes historical novels about the frontier, like his Pulitzer Prize-winning epic Lonesome Dove (1985), although he strongly resists romanticizing the Old West and doesn't hold a very high opinion of cowboys in general.

In the early 1960s, when he was at Stanford on a Wallace Stegner fellowship, he began working as a rare-book scout, haunting used-book stores in search of first editions and other valuable books, which he would buy on behalf of antiquarian booksellers. It was a great job for a bookish kid who liked to hang around and browse the shelves, and when he moved to Washington, D.C., in 1970, he opened his own store in Georgetown, called Booked Up. In 1988, he opened a second Booked Up in his hometown of Archer City, in four large buildings that once housed a car dealership. He bought up the stock of failing independent bookstores all over the country, and he filled the towering white shelves with hundreds of thousands of volumes.

He doesn't see his current vocations — author and bookseller — as entirely different from his cattle-ranch roots. He told The New York Times: "The tradition I was born into was essentially nomadic, a herdsmen tradition, following animals across the earth. The bookshops are a form of ranching; instead of herding cattle, I herd books. Writing is a form of herding, too; I herd words into little paragraphlike clusters." He occasionally talks about giving up fiction, but he'll never give up the bookstores.

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