scarecrow reviews


Charles Portis - True Grit

Charles Portis - True Grit.


A while back scarecrow opined that the American novel literally oozed voice. And here, quite frankly, is proof of just that. Charles Portis is a writer who can draw the reader into his narrative. Just ask Donna Tartt, she has “loved this book” since she was a child - as have her mother and grandmother (not since children you understand). We very rarely hear that much from Donna Tartt in the media so her introduction to this Bloomsbury edition is quite refreshing. And the book itself? (We’re not concerned with the film adaptation staring John Wayne). Well, True Grit is quite mesmerizing in its simplicity. It follows fourteen-year-old Mattie as she travels to claim her father’s – Frank Ross – body, gunned down in cold bitter blood by Tom Chancey. Along the way Mattie realizes that the authorities are doing nothing to find Chancey. Mattie soon bumps into Rooster – a man who possess, well he’s said to at least, oh the suspense, true grit. At this juncture the book begins to move as Rooster pulls Mattie with him deep down into Indian Country to help avenge her father’s murder. The book is quite a simple little tale really, as most good books are. True Grit is a bitter-sweet lament with a voice and inner-drive that is at once immediate and terse yet always comforting. Portis captures, one imagines, the idioms of the American South with passion, accuracy and aplomb. On the whole True Grit taps into the uncomplicated regions of the human condition, those same signifiers we can all relate to at once: pain, revenge, longing and love. Portis doesn’t overstep the mark and it is within this clarity of narrative True Grit gains its strength. This marvellous little cult classic is a book that thoroughly deserves the acclaim it is now receiving. And, like other American cult classics, such as Catcher in the Rye and Huckleberry Finn, True Grit is completely accessible to all. Read this book.

Lee Rourke © 2005.


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