Thursday, August 12, 2010

1974 Meeting Larry McMurtry In His Bookstore Booked Up on 31st Street In Georgetown,D.C.

Click on the above photo to enlarge it.
I just finished reading the second book of what Larry McMurtry calls his memoirs. It is a strange kind of memoir in that he seems to only write about writing his books and buying and selling books in his avocation as a bookseller. There is very little personal information about himself. There was more personal information in his non fiction books like Paradise and Walter Benjamin and the Dairy Queen and Roads.
He spends a lot of words writing about his reviews of other people's books and how he hurt their feelings even though he felt he gave them a good review.

My friend Bill McKenzie(who grew up in El Paso and Fort Stockton,Texas)and I(who lived 3 years in East Texas growing up) happened to go in Larry McMurtry's bookstore called Booked Up on 31st Street in Georgetown,D.C.sometime around 1974. Larry and his partner Marcia Carter were the only people in the store when we walked in. Larry was sitting behind his desk. We introduced ourselves as fellow Texans and that got little or no response. I then mentioned I was a friend of Peggy Milner who knew McMurtry way back in the day when he lived in Houston and Austin. That perked him up a little bit. At least he repeated the name Peggy Milner. When I knew Peggy she told me she was friends with many of the Texas writers like McMurtry and Billy Lee Brammer and the rest.

By the way I knew that Marcia Carter had once been married to Hodding Carter Jr.'s brother Philip who lived in New Orleans. Philip ran the newspaper The Vieux Carre Courier and helped stop the building of freeways along the Mississippi River right through the heart of The French Quarter. But I didn't say anything to her or Larry about that. I knew about Phillip Carter because I lived in the French Quarter in 1965 and 1966.

I had brought along a book that belonged once to my grandmother. It was an old book by Madame Octavia Walton LeVert. It was a book in 2 volumes of her travels in Europe in the 1850s. It was an original first edition from around 1857. I showed it to Larry and asked him if he wanted to buy it. I really had only taken it as a reason for coming in the shop in the first place. I think he took one look at me and at Bill McKenzie and knew we weren't going to buy anything. McMurtry's bookstore was a rare bookstore with high prices.
He looked at the book and said he wasn't interested. This was in late fall and Marcia Carter asked him if he didn't want to buy it for(name forgotten)for Christmas. He said no. Then he did offer the statement that he was more interested in European ladies who traveled to America than American ladies who traveled to Europe.

I spotted him as an intellectual not interested in small talk. Also a busy businessman not interested in two guys with no money. His lack of emotion did not surprise me. The Japanese have a description of this type of non responsive person. They call them "a cold fish". I don't know the Japanese words for that but I heard some Japanese call another introvert I once knew by that name.

So we left Larry's store. He had been polite and civil but nothing more and since he didn't know us from Adam I can't blame him for blowing us off.

I like his non fiction better than his fiction. I did like the early first fiction books like The Last Picture Show and Moving On and All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers. But after all is said and done I think he will be remembered for Lonesome Dove since that is what most people seem to like. He lost me on that somewhere in the tumbleweeds. And all the other cowboy books did not interest me.
My favorites in his non fiction are Paradise,Walter Benjamin And The Dairy Queen, and Roads.
But I admit I liked Texasville very much and Duane Is Depressed and Cadillac Jack. Cadillac Jack is one of the best books about collectors I have ever read.
In his book Literary Life he mentions John Updike. Thinking it over it seems to me that the books starting with The Last Picture Show and continuing with Texasville and Duane Is Depressed and the rest are much like the books John Updike wrote about Rabbit Angstrom. Rabbit, Run and Rabbit is Rich and the rest of those connected books.
McMurtry's books are much the same just with a Texas location instead of Pa.

Rabbit novels

(1960) Rabbit, Run
(1971) Rabbit Redux
(1981) Rabbit Is Rich
(1990) Rabbit At Rest
(1995) Rabbit Angstrom: The Four Novels
(2001) Rabbit Remembered (a novella in the collection Licks of Love)
Bech books

Here is some information about Larry McMurtry.
Here is some information on the first volume of his memoirs.
I liked the first volume much better than the second volume which is titled Literary Life and came out in 2009.
Something I found about Madame Octavia Walton LeVert by looking up her book Souvenirs of Travels on page 7.
Souvenirs of Travel.
LE VERT, Madame Octavia Walton.
Bookseller: Bartleby's Books, ABAA
(Washington, DC, U.S.A.)

Bookseller Rating:

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Book Description: S.H. Goetzel,, Mobile, (AL):, 1857. First edition. 8vo. 2 volumes: xvi, 348; viii, 348 pp. Errata slip tipped into volume one. Madame Le Vert (1811-1877), a native of Georgia, the daughter of a prominent Augusta lawyer and granddaughter of signer George Walton, moved with her family to Pensacola, Florida, where her father was acting governor of the territory under Andrew Jackson, and then on to Mobile, Alabama, where she married a French emigré physician. "Le Vert's reputation as an author rests upon her Souvenirs of Travel, describing her European trips of 1853 and 1855. Modeled on the successful travel memoirs of Lady Emmeline Stuart-Wortley and the Swedish novelist Frederika Bremer, both of whom had visited the Le Verts on their American tours in the early 1850s, the book is a record of travel in the grand manner. Madame Le Vert sought, and usually obtained, access to the leading social, political, and literary figures of London, Paris, Florence, and elsewhere, being presented to Queen Victoria, Pope Pius IX, Napoleon III, and other notables. Her conventionalized account of these experiences, replete with glowing superlatives, reflects the mid-nineteenth century romantic outlook" (Notable American Women). Owen, p. 1018: "Up to the time she was the only American to gain access to the better circles of European society who had given an account of the impressions founded thereon. To this was added a freshness of style, a glow of fancy, and descriptive powers which lent the finish of genius and taste to her writings." Smith American Travellers Abroad L32: "Trips to Europe [and Cuba] in 1853 and 1855 are told in letters to her mother by a southern aristocrat." Original brown cloth (rubbed), gilt spine titles. Very good. (1348). Bookseller Inventory # 54710