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True Grit by Charles Portis
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True Grit (original 1968; edition 1968)

by Charles Portis

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,917943,574 (4.14)1 / 182
Member:mrspeabody68
Title:True Grit
Authors:Charles Portis
Info:Editions du Rocher, Edition: SERPENT A PLUMES, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:crime, 2013, male, USA, 60s

Work details

True Grit by Charles Portis (1968)

  1. 30
    Warlock by Oakley Hall (rickyrickyricky)
    rickyrickyricky: Another far-out, not-so-traditional western (and, incidentally, one of Thomas Pynchon's driving influences!).
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    The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (ShelfMonkey)
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    Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down by Ishmael Reed (rickyrickyricky)
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    Anonymous user: Historical novel about a spunky, tomboy heroine struggling to survive the dangers of Civil War torn Missouri Ozarks. Sprinkled with humor.
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Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
This book was fantastic. I love all the characters and the story was great. It was written really well. I have not seen the movie, but I can visualize every little detail as it is written so well. The book is very serious with some suspense, but there is also occasional comedic dialogue. ( )
  renbedell | Sep 3, 2014 |
The new movie is so good I saw it twice.

I listened to this book on Audible.com and found it almost as good, but very worthwhile.

I would like to get my daughter to read this book so she could get the idea of toughness in a woman. ( )
  Benedict8 | Jul 16, 2014 |
When fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross' father is murdered, she sets out to revenge herself on the killer, hiring a US Marshal with a mean reputation to track him down and then simply and steadfastly refusing to be left behind on the hunt. It's a very simple story, one that goes exactly where it tells you at the outset it's going to go. But it's a surprisingly compelling one. Largely that's due to the main character; the stolid, determined, tough and serious-minded Mattie is a pretty memorable gal. But a lot of it also has to do with the voice it's written in. First person narration is something of a literary conceit, really, one that usually requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, no matter how unconscious and effortless that might be. Seldom is it truly quite believable that a novel would in fact be told by its main character exactly the way it is told, especially when the character is not herself a professional writer. Not this one, though. Everything about it, from the slightly stilted language to Mattie's not infrequent digressions into political or religious opinions, feels absolutely authentic, as though it could indeed have been written years later by a real person who really lived these experiences. Nothing about it feels the least bit artful or artificial, and yet, as a novel, it reads absolutely smoothly. It's a darned impressive effect. ( )
3 vote bragan | Jun 10, 2014 |
It is the rare book that delivers a unique and complete voice, unadulterated, without shaving off the rough edges. Mattie Ross, Charles Portis’ young teen heroine in [True Grit] is just such a pure voice.

[True Grit] is told entirely by Mattie, re-told really, as though recounting the events toward the end of her life to someone close to her, someone with whom she shared a trust. So, how much of Mattie’s story is accurately reflected in the pages of the book? How much of the antics and character of Rooster Cogburn or LaBouef can we believe? How much of the speech and eccentricities of these rough men are true to life? Remember, we are viewing the entire story through the eyes of a lonely, and bitter from the sound of it, spinster who lived through the adventures when she was just fourteen-years-old. And these particular fourteen-year-old eyes are filtered through fundamentalist religion and the politics of 1890’s democrats.

Whether Mattie was an accurate historian or not, her story suggests a deeper issue – are we accurate historians of our own lives? Mattie describes how she left home to attend to the affairs of her recently murdered father. At fourteen, she ties up the loose ends of her father’s legal and business affairs with the acumen we would attribute to someone skilled in the art of ‘fixing.’ She enlists the services of the most brutal man she can find to help her catch a man at the top of his game in the art of con and vice. She hits the trail with this hard-drinking, hair-triggered brute, and manages to tame him somewhere along the trail. With Rooster’s help, and LeBouef’s, she exacts her revenge, and survives a nest of rattlesnakes. If you’re looking for realism, the story itself stretches the boundaries. But, perhaps because it is told by Mattie herself, all of it has the absolute ring of truth. The question is whether it is the truth or the truth that Mattie’s told herself through many years of living alone and caring for an ailing mother.

That question is one we could all put to ourselves. If nothing else, Portis manages to secure Mattie as someone who knows who she is and what has made her who she is. Portis’ subtlety in telling Mattie’s story in her own voice is magical, allowing us to see the hazy light just through the veil of her own peculiarities and grasp the point of her story, and his. Everyone begins to recreate the history of their own lives, re-shaping and excising the outlying facts when they don’t conform to the story we want to tell. In the end, Portis bedevils us all with a story about taming the beasts that lay hidden deep inside of us all. Mattie tames her fears and tames her own strong will to live through the adventure. Mattie helps Rooster to tame his own demons, ones created in blood and immorality. Mattie and Rooster help LaBouef tame his ego and pride to become something greater than himself. So, we forgive Mattie if she doesn’t tell everything just as it happened – just as our friends and family forgive us when the details go awry but the story makes its point; just as we forgive ourselves for re-shaping our own history if it helps us become who we need to be.

On a side note, this particular edition is graced with an afterword by Donna Tartt, she of [The Goldfinch] fame. Tartt explains her own fascination with Portis’ epic Old West tale, finding it the intersection of the frontier with chivalry. With apologies to Ms. Tartt, chivalry was not absent in the frontier, it was everywhere. The point she makes is that Rooster’s nobility seems to arise in his interaction with Mattie and her quest. I believer Portis gives us enough of Rooster’s background to see that he was a noble man at some point, even if he’s lost his way. So, I believe that the point, while well-taken, is slightly missed. My own take is that Roster regains lost nobility that was always there, he is able to tame the demons created by his poor choices, just as Mattie’s own nobility shines through the obsessive will and pride of her character.

Bottom Line: A tale of redemption, of people taming their demons and proving their nobility.

4 ½ bones!!!!! ( )
4 vote blackdogbooks | Jun 7, 2014 |
I decided to read True Grit after having seen the recent remake of the movie based on the novel. I wanted to resolve an issue regarding the portrayal of Mattie as an older woman at the end of the movie. Mattie the narrator in the movie seemed too harsh of a character; not the woman that the 14 year old girl would become. What does the novel makes of her? My conclusion: the movie got the mature Mattie right, but portrayed the young Mattie as a girl who had feelings and affections, perhaps even capable of romantic attachment, whereas the book depicts her as a woman who is, in Steve Harris's words, " at heart . . . an accountant." That's an accurate assessment, I think. Mattie's focus is very narrow (she intends to exact an eye for an eye & won't rest until her father's murderer is either shot or hanged). She doesn't waste much, if any time, on emotion. She reports that her neighbors think that she never married because she loves only money & the Presbyterian Church, which may be about right. However, she does "care" about Rooster Cogburn, her hired gun, if only because he ultimately gets the job done for her. He finishes off Tom Chaney with one last bullet, after 2 of Mattie's own (gutsy as they are under the circumstances) fail to kill him.
It's Rooster Cogburn, the federal Marshall (although always on the shaky side of the law), who registers feeling in this story. Not through what he says, but by what he does. What he does is described by Mattie later in her usual clinical fashion, but her matter of fact telling diminishes none of the emotion. It is the picture of Rooster Cogburn (& I see him as Jeff Bridges throughout, while I don't necessarily see Mattie as she appears in the film) flogging the horse Blackie until he is completely played out, in order to get Mattie to a doctor in time to save her life after she breaks an arm & is bitten by a deadly snake, that resolves the book into something other than just a swashbuckling tale.

Voice (the manner of speaking) is important here. The stilted, almost archaic speech that is so notable in the characters in the film quite accurately translates the written dialog of the novel. Whether an accurate rendering of 19th century southern frontier dialect or rather more a gesture toward Shakespearean drama, I'm not able to judge.

The third main character of both novel & film, the Texas ranger Le Boeuf (it's a hilariously pretentious cowboy & cattle drive sort of name) doesn't come to life in the novel in quite the same way as Rooster & Mattie (Matt Damon fills out Le Boeuf's role in the film more than the same character does in the book), but he does provide a foil for Rooster & some comic moments.

In the final analysis, I enjoyed the book (& probably would have loved it when I was 14 & so hungry for female characters at all, let alone ones with distinctiveness & vitality), but was a bit disappointed with it too. Perhaps I just wanted more of a meta narrative, more context. Context must largely be provided by the reader; the author includes only a few historical names, dates & places. For example, the fact that Rooster, Mattie & Le Boeuf track Tom Chaney across the border into the Choctaw Nation, into Indian Territory is significant. It has meaning, although that meaning must be conjured up by the reader herself, based upon what she already knows. History here isn't written in, but merely alluded to. The author uses references, but with no notes appended, so to speak.
The novel is set not long after the Civil War. Both Rooster & Le Boeuf participated in the conflict, although in quite different fashion. The Civil War depicted here reminds me vaguely of that portrayed in Cold Mountain; a war that took place on the margins, that was engaged in for different reasons, perhaps, than the Official War. If that war was fought to preserve the Union, or break it, to end slavery or continue it, this war seems to have been about other matters. Particularly where regional conflicts are concerned, there are always wars within wars. Some fight, not for principle or the Big Picture, not for freedom or justice, but for hardscrabble matters such as a square meal & a pay day, for adventure or for an opportunity to disguise banditry & lawlessness with a soldier's uniform. Some readers criticized Cold Mountain for having almost failed to mention slavery. The same could be said about True Grit. However, I think this novel is better assessed as history with a small "h" rather than a capital one. Mattie seems to know only one or two things deeply and these remain the same all her life. Her narrow, ethical concerns aren't much different than those of the outlaws whom the trio track. Rooster has done many things in his life before meeting up with Mattie & does many more afterward. He ranges much more broadly. He has seen more & maybe he's come to some conclusions about it all. He's not a romantic or mythic figure, however. He just plays life out. ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
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Portis, Charlesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tartt, DonnaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my mother and father
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People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 159020459X, Paperback)

Charles Portis has long been acclaimed as one of America's foremost comic writers. True Grit is his most famous novel--first published in 1968, and the basis for the movie of the same name starring John Wayne. It tells the story of Mattie Ross, who is just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shoots her father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robs him of his life, his horse, and $150 in cash money. Mattie leaves home to avenge her father's blood. With the one-eyed Rooster Cogburn, the meanest available U.S. Marshal, by her side, Mattie pursues the homicide into Indian Territory.

True Grit is eccentric, cool, straight, and unflinching, like Mattie herself. From a writer of true cult status, this is an American classic through and through. This new edition, with a smart new package and an afterword by acclaimed author Donna Tartt, will bring this masterpiece to an even broader audience.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:41 -0400)

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Mattie Ross is just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shoots her father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robs him of his life, his horse, and $150 in cash money. Mattie leaves home to avenge her father's blood. With the one-eyed Rooster Cogburn, the meanest available U.S. Marshal, by her side, Mattie pursues the homicide into Indian Territory.… (more)

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