Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Larry McMurtry's Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen

I recommend McMurtry's book, subtitled, "Reflections at Sixty and Beyond"; I'd call it a mix of memoir, essay, and quirky anecdotes. Good stuff for a thoughtful narrative that is also an easy read. It will engage readers interested in Walter Benjamin, Dairy Queens, our lost buffalo and Western expansion, the book business and book collecting or "scouting" in particular, and possibly anyone within range of sixty with an eye for an articulate view of and from that age. The book was published in 1999, and it is refreshing McMurtry chooses to avoid millennial expectation in his consideration of the times and his relationship to them.

McMurtry is building his own version of a Megabookstore in Archer County, and he sees it as something he can leave the community. He has assembled a collection of used and rare books well beyond the 100,000s, and his hope is that this gift will have lasting impact on his community although he is awfully humble in his presentation of such generosity. He expresses concern for how independents and used bookstores have been driven out of our major cities and considers the repercussions of such an exodus. We get a strong sense from this writing that McMurtry is an engaged citizen of these United States.

I have not read McMurtry's novels, but I do know the names of the more famous ones such as Terms of Endearment and The Last Picture Show. I am almost certain I recall that Deborah Winger was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the former, and I believe the latter gets mentioned in conversations about the best films of all time. (Stanley Fish included Groundhog Day in one such conversation so I am unsure of how seriously we can take most of these lists; when I was twelve you can bet I would have had Hooper in my top three.) I rented it as a VHS tape and played it on a nineteen-inch screen and did enjoy the show. I wonder what Walter Benjamin would say about writers acknowledging their extremely dated technology which is as young as nine years old or so.

Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen. Check it out.

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