As many of you may know, author Larry McMurtry is the proprietor of Booked Up, a business comprised of four separate buildings on the square in Archer City, Texas—twenty-five miles southeast of Wichita Falls. Ken and I recently did an overnight in Archer City at the Spur Hotel so that we could have an extended time perusing the shelves of Mr. McMurtry’s establishment. In the past I’ve stopped in briefly on the way back to Lubbock, but this time I was able to spend hours combing the shelves of all four buildings for treasures. Frankly, Mr. McMurtry offers few bargains (mostly paperbacks), but he does know what he has, and he’s not afraid to charge what the market will bear. I will say that on this occasion, he did offer a generous 25% discount, so I went a little crazy.
These are some of the jewels I found:
A signed copy of Robert Ferro’s novel The Family Of Max Desir, as well as his The Blue Star. Ferro, born in 1941, died of AIDS in 1988—one of our literary world’s treasures who might have written much more for us . . . .
I bought two review copies, Donald Barthelme’s City Life, a work I’ve yet to read. The other review copy is Ann Beattie’s recently released Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life. It may be that part of Beattie’s impetus for writing about such a figure is that as a young woman in the early 1970s she met Mrs. Nixon . Yes, while Beattie and her mother were shopping for shoes at a DC store, Woodward & Lothrop’s, she met Mrs. Nixon and daughter Tricia. One might otherwise wonder why she would wish to write about such a banal couple, but Beattie brings Mrs. Nixon to life in such a manner that one also wonders why the woman agreed to marry a man like Mr. Nixon in the first place. Beattie manages to humanize both parties through her imaginings. I’ve almost finished reading it.
I found a number of story collections:
Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior
Ellen Gilchrist’s The Cabal. I read her collection Victory Over Japan and am now a fan.
Edna O’Brian’s A Fanatic Heart. I read her story in The New Yorker and was hooked.
Reynolds Price’s The Collected Stories. Price, born in 1933, recently passed in 2011.
Tennessee Williams’s Collected Stories
Richard Ford’s edition of The Granta Book Of the American Short Story
My biggest find may be an original copy of David Leavitt’s While England Sleeps released before the publisher was forced to pulp the remaining copies. Leavitt based characters on the life of poet Stephen Spender and his male companion of the period. Later, Spender married (a woman), and perhaps when he saw that Leavitt had used “personal” information about his life as a gay blade (most everyone knew), he did not care for it. Spender brought suit against Leavitt and won, and the latter was forced to publish an edition that expunged all such “personal” information. That is the version I’ve read, and now I get to see the real thing! I paid a pretty penny for this unpulped edition, but I don’t care. Having recently finished a biography of Stephen Spender, I can’t wait to read this original version of While England Sleeps and see what the fuss was all about. Either way, it's a fine book.
If you love small towns with greasy little cafes (a matter of pride) and homey inns and a world-class bookstore, to boot, you might wish to spend an overnighter in Archer City, Texas and see what treasures you can come up with. I’ve put together a little video below to celebrate our thirty-six hours in Archer City—itself a celebration of thirty-six years Ken and I have spent together. Click on “Intermezzo With Books” and take a look!
And with all this talk: any of you (you know who you are) who have borrowed from me in the past, please return my books and CDs (if you’re through with them, of course). Thanks.
Items That Won't Recycle
I saw a piece on TV about how so much plastic is being dumped in the Pacific Ocean that it gathers out in the middle where eddies and currents whirl it into a huge circle of rotting (salt water degrades it) . . . stuff. While it is degrading, it kills more marine life than we can possibly imagine. I’m sure since the beginning of time, people have been tempted to throw items into the sea, both from the shore and from a vessel. The oceans are so huge; no one will ever know. Well, now we know. Let’s stop it.
From the World Wide Web of indisputable information, I found the following tidbits.
This Is How Long It Takes For Certain Products To Biodegrade:
Apple core 1-2 months
General paper 1-3 months
Paper towel 2–4 weeks
Cardboard box 2 months
Cotton cloth 5 months
Plastic coated milk carton 5 years
Wax coated milk carton 3 months
Tin cans 50–100 years
Aluminum cans 150-200 years
Glass bottles Undetermined (Forever?)
Plastic bags 10-20 years
Soft plastic (bottle) 100 years
Hard plastic (bottle cap) 400 years
Let’s just say that if a pilgrim bumping up against Plymouth Rock in 1620 had brought along a bottle of Evian with a hard plastic lid and buried it in the rich New England soil, it would just now be beginning to disappear, to become part of the earth once again. Is that what we want to leave to our descendants?
We thank everyone who attended. Perhaps forty or more people came out to witness the event held in the Unitarian Universalist Church building on Forty-second Street (where we meet monthly). Somehow, when one emerges from the dank writing studio to present his/her material, it takes on a life that, on the printed page, has remained dormant until it reaches the ears of a receptive audience.
Thanks once again, and come back next year when we shall present our second annual . . .