Booked Up

On a recent Saturday, Nancy and I went for a drive in the country. Our destination was the tiny Texas town of Archer City, population less than 2000. What's the big attraction? A bookstore, specializing in out of print and rare editions. Normally we wouldn't drive so far to look at used books - 300 miles round trip is a bit far even for diehard bibliophiles like us. But this store, called Booked Up, has a little added charm that made it worth a visit.

Booked Up is owned by Larry McMurtry, author of such books as Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment, Texasville, and many others. Mr. McMurtry has a home in Archer City (he's from these parts), and visits the stores frequently. Did I say stores? Let me explain... Booked Up has four locations clustered around the main intersection (a four way stop) in Archer City. They are numbered one through four, and you browse through them at your convenience. When you're done, you take your selections back to building number one to pay for them.

It felt strange at first, carrying books out of one building then down the block and around the corner to another store. I guess that's because we live in the big city. But that's just the way you do things at Booked Up in Archer City. Don't even look for someone to help you in buildings two through four -- this is the sign posted throughout those buildings:

"If you are unable to find an employee in this building, please feel free to wander about yelling "Yoo hoo" and peering into storage rooms until completely frustrated. Then, proceed to building one, where you will find patronizing employees busy at work or sitting around drinking coffee, laughing at you."

Actually, the employees were quite friendly. And they offer newcomers a directory of what subjects are found in each building. As we milled about in building one, a customer asked if Mr. McMurtry had been in yet today. "He usually writes in the mornings. He might be in later."

The stores are simple and straightforward, full without being cluttered. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves line the walls and the aisles. These are real wood shelves, nicely made, evenly spaced, and painted white. Be prepared to look at lots of books on plenty of shelves, as general subject headings are all you have to work from - there is no index, and no computerized inventory. The newcomer's directory has a list of common questions, including:

        Q. How are the books arranged?
        A. Erratically/ Impressionistically/ Whimsically/ Open to Interpretation

        Q. Do you have a list of these books?
        A. No.

Before we departed this quaint little town, we walked over to the local movie theater, now in ruins. It was featured in the movie The Last Picture Show. We had lunch at the town Dairy Queen, which was featured in the movie Texasville.

While Archer City is a bit off the beaten path, I'll definitely return to Booked Up. But not until I read a few of Mr. McMurtry's books. After all, he might be in the store next time.

(c) 2001, Scott D. Murdock

First published in Rosemarie Skaine's AuthorsDen Newsletter No. 3, March 26, 2001