Archer CityArcher CityArcher City Archer CityArcher CityArcher CityArcher City
Archer CityArcher CityArcher CityArcher City
"The Last Picture Show"  close
Last Picture Show

           "The Last Picture Show " DVD      close
Last Picture Show DVD

           "Paradise"      close

           "By Sorrow's River "      close
By Sorrow's River

           "Texasville "  close Texasville

ARCHER CITY RETREAT May 23rd - May 29th 2007
Seamus Scanlon

There’s sainted glory this day in the lonesome west
The Playboy of the Western World by J. M. Synge

To Archer City, nine writers, hurled from New York into the lonesome West, from the metropolis of eleven million to the city of eighteen hundred, from chaos to serenity. Adam, Casey, Christa, Craig, Kara, Kevin, Linsey, Michelle, Seamus.

La Guardia Airport, dawn, everyone tired, subdued, Linsey grasping her coffee and NY Times, Michelle the most rested because her husband has driven her to the airport. A saint she calls him. Probably. We envy her, the rest of us weary, fragile, pulled through the dark from Manhattan and Brooklyn by anonymous car services and cabs. I am last, see no one at check-in, wonder am I early, maybe I should have slept some more? I forget it’s New York, not Galway. I stroll onwards, Linsey greets me - where were you?

Fred picks us up in Wichita Falls in the afternoon. I see him striding for the parking lot as we taxi to a halt. He greets us all like we are heroes, like we are coming home.

       Last Picture Show    Last Picture Show DVD    Paradise    By Sorrows River    Texasville

Archer City: home of Larry McMurtry, home of the Royal Theater Ð setting for the The Last Picture Show, home of the twelve room Spur Hotel where we will stay; home of Abby Abernathy, metal working genius who restored it; home of the Lonesome Dove Hotel, home of Sue Deen, photographer, who adopts us, feeds us books, peaches, lore, fish dinners, who drives a pickup with abandon, a copy of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own beside her. Home of Louise Thomas, who reads my story about my mother's Alzheimer's, who recounts her impoverished background, her cultural awakening hearing opera by chance on a Texaco sponsored program, the radio waves sweeping the promise of another world to her, across the Texas sky. 

Home of 250,000 books in four large stores smelling of varnished wood, ink, dust, craft, scholarship, genius. On the shelves I see O'Casey, Wilde, Synge, Beckett, Behan, Joyce, O'Connor, Yeats Ð great Irish writers echoing acute memories for me of home, of storytellers, of the other lonesome West. The stores are open all night for us in case insomnia or book mania seizes us. It does.

Fred is footman, driver, raconteur, bon vivant, folklorist, cook, server, hotel keeper, barfly, organizer and factotum. Linsey's wisdom on writing and life shines. They worry about the only vegan in the group but he thrives. 

Larry McMurtry invites us into his house lined with bookshelves of first and rare editions, inviting questions, answering the phone, recounting stories while we sit in his front room surrounded by memorabilia and Yeats' first editions. Fred acts as chair, prodding Larry for stories. Larry is affable, low key, perceptive, his high fidelity intelligence obvious to all.

Standing for a group photograph, Larry beside me, his arm around my shoulder, the still air heavy before the storm, the purity and innocence of the moment fills me with joy (not my usual state). Larry prepares to leave and drive from Archer City to find the sun (the weather in Archer City uncharacteristically overcast and mild for late May). You could see the restless nature and focus of many of his fictional frontiersmen echoed in his own restlessness to be on the road and drive into the wide horizon until he found the high bright Texas sun further to the West.