Center & Main: Stories from the Heart of McMurtry Country is our literary version of Archer City’s Dairy Queen. We believe that Center & Main, like Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen has, as McMurtry put it, ‘the potential for storytelling of the sort Walter Benjamin favored’.”
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It may come as a surprise to Larry McMurtry’s world-wide fan club that the author of Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show, Horsemen, Pass By and many other bestselling novels considers Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen one of his two best books. Written with a pen inside Archer City’s Dairy Queen as a sort of paean to the German literary critic, Walter Benjamin, McMurtry examines his homeplace, his ranching heritage, a life spent herding books and the lost art of oral storytelling. Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen is, if anything, McMurtry’s meditation on his homeplace and his memories of that place.
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“Center & Main: Stories from the Heart of McMurtry Country” is our literary version of Archer City’s Dairy Queen. The Archer City Writers Workshop wanted to create an attractive gathering spot to carry on a deep conversation with folks in Archer County and around the world about the importance of storytelling in McMurtry’s homeplace, the place that gave rise to his life’s work and the work of a new generation of writers who have followed in his footsteps. We believe that Center & Main, like Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen has, as McMurtry put it, “the potential for storytelling of the sort Walter Benjamin favored.”
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The Archer City Writers Workshop and our website, “Center & Main: Stories from the Heart of McMurtry Country,” are operated under the auspices of the Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas. Begun in 2005, the in-residence workshop at the Spur Hotel in Archer City is a component of the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, the pre-eminent literary nonfiction conference in the country.
Following the close of the Mayborn Conference each year, George Getschow, the Mayborn’s writer-in-residence, leads a group of Mayborn graduate students and a few nationally renowned writers from the conference to Archer City to practice literary nonfiction in McMurtry’s homeplace. In the tradition of Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, the writers, assembled at the Spur Hotel, quickly disperse in all directions from the corner of Center and Main to chat with the locals, closely observe their customs and way of life and craft stories from their interviews and observations. Around noon each day, they head down to Larry McMurtry’s favorite diner, the Archer City Dairy Queen, to eat fried chicken, chat with the locals and engage in a deep conversation about the art and craft of storytelling. To remind them of the importance of storytelling to the community, Getschow encourages his students to carry copies of Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen with them wherever they go.