Thursday, January 22, 2009

Larry McMurtry: "The end of the culture of the book"

Author Larry McMurtry spoke at Rice University in Houston last night. McMurtry, best known for his Pulitzer-prize-winning novel Lonesome Dove, is a prolific novelist, essayist, and screenwriter (including co-writing the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain, which won an Academy Award in 2006). McMurtry's 29th novel will be published later this year.

The Houston Chronicle interviewed McMurtry prior to his talk and elicited some interesting remarks:

Q: What will you talk about at Rice?
A: The end of the culture of the book. I’m pessimistic. Mainly it’s the flow of people into my bookshop in Archer City. They’re almost always people over 40. I don’t see kids, and I don’t see kids reading. I think little kids love to have stories read to them, but when they get to 10 or 11 or 12, they run into this tsunami of technology: iPod,
iPhone, Blackberries. They don’t resist it, and it’s normal that they wouldn’t; it’s their culture. I’m not so sure they ever come back to reading. Some will, but most won’t.

Q: What are you working on?
A: I have turned in the fifth and final volume of The Last Picture Show quintet. It’s called Rhino Ranch. It’ll be published, I guess, in early summer. And I’m working on the second volume of my autobiography. The first volume is about my life as a bookseller (Books: A Memoir, published in 2008). The second volume is going to be called Writing, and then there will be a third and final volume about Hollywood.

Q: You’ve been quoted as saying Booked Up is going to stay in business as long as you’re alive.
A: Well, as long as I can afford it. I hope it’s as long as I’m alive. Actually, business has picked up in the past six months. I don’t know how seriously, but any little bit is welcome.

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