When I think of a "salon," I think of a place to socialize with interesting people, talking about a variety of subjects. Larry McMurtry's Books: A Memoir is perfect for a salon.
The Pulitzer Prize winning author is also a raconteur. Books provides him with the opportunity to ramble on about books, book scouting and collecting, and bookstores. McMurtry said his writing is a vocation, but it's the book trade that is his passion.
McMurtry drops names in his book, but many of them are obscure names of book dealers. However, the stories are fascinating to someone who loves books. Did you know the English title of Moby-Dick was The Whale? Did you know Don Quixote and Sancho Panza were the source of Gus and Call in Lonesome Dove? He mentions his writing, a little, although that isn't the purpose of the book. McMurtry says that his novel, Horseman, Pass By was sold to the movies, and quickly produced. Then he says, "The movie was called Hud, and it did well.
Books is actually about bookstores, book dealing, and the interesting people involved in the trade. McMurtry mentions Second Story Books in Georgetown, a bookstore I loved when I was in grad school. And, of course, he discusses his booktown in Archer City, Texas, and his bookstore there, as well as its earlier incarnation in Georgetown. There's talk of thousands and thousands of books, and intriguing people.
At one point, McMurtry says, "I'm aware that this kind of prattle is exactly the kind of prattle I ought to be avoiding, lest this become a narrative that is of inerest only to bookmen." Well, it is really a book for book fanatics. But, it seemed perfect for a Sunday, particularly when he discussed Evangeline Bruce's salon in Washington. He says, "I was invited a couple of times and went, recognizing that salons organized by great society ladies, gatherings at which important people from the government, business, or the arts mingled and exchanged pleasantires, would very soon be a thing of the past."
Ah, but Larry McMurtry doesn't realize there is still a Sunday Salon, and his book, Books: A Memoir, is a perfect one for the day.
Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry. Simon & Schuster, ©2008. ISBN 9781416583349 (hardcover), 259p.