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Books: A Memoir (2008)
by Larry McMurtry
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In an intimate and intriguing memoir, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lonesome Dove recounts his lifelong love affair with books, from his largely "bookless" boyhood and discovery of literature as a young man, to the evolution of his writing career and his passion as a book collector who opens bookstores of rare and collectible volumes. 75,000 first printing.
I enjoyed this series of short little essays and remembrances by author and bookseller Larry McMurtry on his relationship with books. This book is less about his reading and more about a memoir on his career as an antiquarian collector and bookseller. But I do like in his introductory chapters he explains how he had no books as a child until a cousin dropped off a box on his way to enlist in WWII. (So important--make sure the children have access to books!)
Some have said this book was disjointed. Others complained that he drops names and brags. I read it as if it was a series of blog posts and that helped me reconcile that. For me it was learning more about the antiquarian book trade worked. Along the way you learn fun interesting facts about McMurtry such as he writes at least five pages of narrative every single morning--weekends and holidays not excluded before getting on with the rest of his day. This has resulted in an extremely prolific career as a novelist, writer, and screenwriter. As for dropping names--he's Larry effing McMurtry. He won a Pulitzer. He won an Oscar. He kept the American book trade alive. The man can drop all the names and talk about how his books have been turned into Hollywood hits all he wants. I only want to know more. I was actually struck by how unassuming his life is--and that no matter what he does what he is passionate for.
Which reminds me that it is about time I go back and read Lonesome Dove and see if it is as good as I remembered it. I couldn't find the Last Picture show on Amazon Prime or Netflix so I re-watched Terms of Endearment last night and of course cried my eyes out.
Brief memoir by a writer who is also known for his movies but his real passion was dealing in used books. Especially high end collectibles and rare editions. So of course he tells how he came to be a reader, and his love of books which any bibliophile would enjoy absorbing in these pages. However this volume felt a bit choppy to me, as he tells about part of his childhood, then where that led to or some related aspect of his adult life, then drops back into the chronological narrative again. Every other page nearly, as the chapters are mostly only one or two in length. It didn't bother me too much, though. I've liked before many memoirs written by readers or writers, but this one is really about being a dealer. A book scout. Mingling with wealthy and monied people (they have the best private libraries) and what finds he had (or missed out on). How some copies resurfaced years later, or were re-bought and sold when you wouldn't expect them to be. Lots of titles I recognized fondly, and many many more I didn't (my reading tastes are not quite the same). Loads of name dropping which did nothing for me, but I skimmed through that, interested regardless. Plenty of interesting snippets of stories about curious customers or individuals met while seeking out fine book collections. He tells about when secondhand bookshops were thriving, and how he watched them slowly begin to decline in the seventies. This account wraps up just when online selling was becoming a thing, in fact the last chapter is a sort of obituary list of defunct bookshops- many of which he'd acquired the complete stock when they went under. He also noted how computers are gradually taking over space in public libraries, saying though "Book selling will never quite expire unless reading expires first..."
more at the Dogear Diary
I suppose I was expecting something different. This book really feels like a story from my grandpa. McMurtry talks of his childhood, but most of the book covers his life as a bookseller and collector of rare books. He talks about some of them and other stuff like that, and it reads rather easily. He has been in the book business for a while, but seems to not be in it anymore. No surprise really, since he would be in his seventies by now.
Anyway, I thought it was okay, but I won't read it again.
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Books by Larry McMurtry is a non-fiction memoir of the author’s time as an antiquarian book seller. Mr. McMurtry is an American novelist, who is known for writing about the Old West such as Lonesome Dove.
I really enjoyed the parts where Mr. McMurtry talked about his love for books, eclectic customers, unique acquisitions, special sales he’d made, and love of bookstores around the country. Once the author veers off the topics of books and talks about the business aspect. The book, however, was disjointed, almost as if the author dictated it and then published the dictation. There is no timeline that I could easily discern, some chapters are barely a paragraph as if it’s a thought the author just wanted to air out.
Besides the captivating world of book dealing, there isn’t much else to this book. It’s not a biography, but a very specific memoir on a very specific subject.
In his own way, McMurtry is no less evasive. “Books: A Memoir” reads like notes waiting to be assembled into a book. Many of its 109 chapters run to under a page, and McMurtry has a fondness for single-sentence paragraphs, a technique that carries a built-in resistance to amplitude.
There is a good book in “Books,” struggling to get past all the “I’m not sures” and “I don’t knows” and the truisms (“choice is a mystery”) that McMurtry’s editors should have saved him from.
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Wikipedia in English (1)
In a prolific life of singular literary achievement, Larry McMurtry has succeeded in a variety of genres: in coming-of-age novels like The Last Picture Show; in collections of essays like In a Narrow Grave; and in the reinvention of the Western on a grand scale in his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove. Now, in Books: A Memoir, McMurtry writes about his endless passion for books: as a boy growing up in a largely "bookless" world; as a young man devouring the vastness of literature with astonishing energy; as a fledgling writer and family man; and above all, as one of America's most prominent bookmen. He takes us on his journey to becoming an astute, adventurous book scout and collector who would eventually open stores of rare and collectible editions in Georgetown, Houston, and finally, in his previously "bookless" hometown of Archer City, Texas--From publisher description.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.