“If you want one thing too much it’s likely to be a disappointment. The healthy way is to learn to like the everyday things, like soft beds and buttermilk—and feisty gentlemen.” -Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove
In Archer City, Texas, there’s a dusty wonder with a stupid name not too far from the Dairy Queen where you can get a chicken finger basket and Blizzard in February if you want. Built by an old man, it doesn’t look romantic, or even clean, really, but this place holds more romance and beauty than many cathedrals. The ceiling tiles are stained and beat up. None of the furnishings work. The sign is ugly. Even the concrete planter outside the entrance is askew and filled with a cactus that’s thriving only because it can be ignored. The condition of the walls are unimportant, the paint color irrelevant. Only the contents of its myriad shelves matter: worlds upon worlds are hidden in this humble spot, spilling out into four separate buildings, silently standing proud, lined up and stacked high a bit too close to their introverted neighbors.
“Only a rank degenerate would drive 1,500 miles across Texas without eating a chicken fried steak.” -Larry McMurtry, In a Narrow Grave, Essays on Texas
Booked Up, Inc. was born because Larry McMurtry loves words. People who love words also love books they can hold. Too much, really. These strange ones like to watch the words tango and mingle with one another in poetry, waltz under photographs in nature books, wander in the metaphors of a good piece of fiction, cut deep in biting and memorable speeches, pierce the mind in inspirational essays, break hearts in songs, inform and fascinate even on copyright pages, and teach, even in the occasional textbook. They go back to them over and over again, enjoying them as one does treasured memories.
“Maybe you can make art out of unredeemed pain, but only if you’re a genius — Dostoyevsky perhaps.” -Larry McMurtry
People like this have a hard time letting go of books. Seeing them in old boxes at garage sales, or shoved in boxes and crammed in basements or garages where they sit in the dark gathering dust, they appear to us like abandoned children, rejected for the most inexcusable of reasons: because they no longer interest the people they live with.
“The earth is mostly just a boneyard. But pretty in the sunlight.”
And so, Larry has collected a vast array of books, some that are immensely valuable to collectors (first editions of so many wonderful things, like a recently acquired Wodehouse, and a David Foster Wallace work worth $1,500), along with all manner of mass market things, fictions and non-fictions both, serious and silly, fantastical, weird, and wonderful. People and cats wander awestruck through four buildings full of wonders.
“It’s a fine world, though rich in hardships at times.”
The immediate gratification and weightless emptiness of the internet is battled here. Here, the endless aisles intensify the effort required to search for the right word. Pages and bindings are heralded, given their proper value and prominence. One could find a lot of the information in Larry’s warehouse of words with an easy click of a plastic mouse, but here, one must hunt, and, upon finding what they have been searching for, hold a heavy bound up thing, and touch the pages, feeling the pages, smelling the time and the effort that is contained within the frail paper walls of the humble world hidden in a real book.
“Most young dealers of the Silicon Chip Era regard a reference library as merely a waste of space. Old Timers on the West Coast seem to retain a fondness for reference books that goes beyond the practical. Everything there is to know about a given volume may be only a click away, but there are still a few of us who’d rather have the book than the click. A bookman’s love of books is a love of books, not merely of the information in them.” -Larry McMurtry, Books