April 26, 2012

Larry McMurtry’s last book sale?


Inside Booked Up bookshop, McMurtry's sprawling empire of books.

Is it the beginning of the end for author Larry McMurtry’s giant bookstore in Western Texas? The famed author and long-time bookseller has announced he’s hosting a massive book auction this August in his Archer City store, Booked Up.  According to the store’s press release:

The town that brought you The Last Picture Show, brings you the Last Book Sale.

The several hundred thousand books that we are putting in play constitute a kind of anthology of American bookshops past.  In our forty-one years as booksellers we have bought twenty six bookshops and some two hundred personal libraries, some humble, some grand.

So why push them out?

Because we believe that in the book world migration is healthy:  old pages await new eyes.  Yesterday in Lubbock, Texas I found a copy of Sons and Lovers in the oil-cloth Modern Library with my bookplate in it.  Twenty eight thousand volumes have my bookplate in them;  they reside in my big house in Archer City, and yet this one strayed.  How it got to Lubbock I’ll likely never know.  It’s home again now;  but three hundred and fifty thousand of it’s cousins will be flooding into the great river of books that delights and refreshes.  Good reading and good luck! — Larry McMurtry

While the great sell-off presents an amazing opportunity for collectors, many fear it spells the end of the Archer City store. D Magazine reports that rumors of the store’s closing have been circulating for years. They cite an interview with McMurtry in Fine Books and Collectables (not available on-line) where he speaks of his unease about the future of bookselling:

“I don’t even see a new generation of bookseller, I don’t see a new generation of customers. We have virtually no customers under fifty; we have good costumers, but they’re not young. And I don’t know if a new generation of some sort …” [McMurtry] trails off. “…. The ‘electronic age’ is what it is, nothing you can do about it.”

And what might this mean for his store?

I’m seventy-five and I’ve got three hundred thousand books in this little town. What’s going to become of them? I don’t know. I haven’t answered those questions.

It seems that this giant sale may be the first step toward an answer.

On a happier note: Book collectors, plan to be in Archer City, Texas, August 10th and 11th, 2012!


Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.