It does have an odd ring to it, not unlike when you hear about a celebrity’s weird venture into franchising. Like, “Wow, I didn’t know Shaq liked pretzels so much . . .”
The two-month-old news that Chip Gaines, of Fixer Upper and Joanna’s-husband fame, purchased revered Texas author Larry McMurtry’s Archer City bookstore has resurfaced on a national scale after a CNN spotlight earlier this week.
The purchase was first reported by Archer County News late last year after, in what I imagine to be true Archer City fashion, a former owner of the newspaper saw Gaines carrying boxes of books out of Booked Up (which has been closed since McMurtry’s death in March 2021) and walked over and asked him what was going on. Easy enough to spot something afoot in a place that McMurtry once said could make you feel “like the only human creature in town.”
McMurtry was born in Archer City, returned in the late 1980s, and lived in the 1,600-person town until his death. Gaines grew up in New Mexico, but his parents and grandparents hail from Archer City, where he spent summers cultivating an appreciation for the “ranching lifestyle.”
A quick Google search (“chip gaines reads books”) will serve to remind you that while Gaines doesn’t present as a bibliophile online, he and McMurtry have more in common than their ties to Archer City. Both are also authors. (One slightly more accomplished, true, but that coveted 4.7-star review on Amazon can be hard to come by. ) No word on if McMurtry, who won a Pulitzer for Lonesome Dove, had a copy of either No Pain, No Gaines: The Good Stuff Doesn’t Come Easy or Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff in his massive collection.
In talking to CNN, Archer County News editor Nathan Lawson said that Gaines’s purchase (which deed records show rang in at $10 and “and other good and valuable consideration”—a phrasing typically used to keep a price point under wraps) had “a large portion of the community” concerned for the fate of the store and collection. Lawson said that townsfolk would be disappointed to see the collection moved out of town, or the buildings left vacant. Similarly, residents wonder if Gaines would refashion the storefront into a tourist destination similar to Waco’s Magnolia Market. Although a spokesperson for Gaines told CNN, “Chip is honored and excited to preserve this incredible book collection with the respect it deserves,” they shared no plans or details for the storefront’s future. By way of comment, Gaines tweeted the CNN piece with “Larry McMurtry RIP ❤.”
Whether Gaines lines the store’s walls with shiplap (though true heads know that’s Joanna’s predilection, not Chip’s) and starts selling croissants out the window, or whether he preserves every sacred layer of dust and leaves the books to sit, Booked Up was doomed to look and feel different without McMurtry behind it.