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True Grit by Charles Portis (30-Oct-2012) Paperback (1968)
True Grit by Charles Portis (Author) (1968)
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This is the second western I have ever read. Sometimes I found it a bit slow and other times action came out of nowhere and shocked me. Had a couple of laughs. Cringed a few times. Pretty violent at the end (I think that's typical for westerns?). ( )
The novel is told from the perspective of a woman named Mattie Ross, who recounts the time when she was 14 and sought retribution for the murder of her father by a scoundrel, Tom Chaney. It is considered by some critics to be "one of the great American novels.
What a wonderful book! I had never seen the John Wayne movie (or the more recent version) but I guess I had an bad image in my mind from movie publicity. Anyway the hero, Mattie, turns out to be a charmingly insufferable 14 year old who is opinionated, deadly serious, clever, tough, and also a little bit of a kid.
I’m sure I would have loved reading the story anyway, but I listened to the audiobook narrated by famous writer Donna Tartt (who knew the author) and she gives Mattie and the others superb southern accents.
I read another book years ago by Portis and liked it (The Dog of the South) - I guess I need to hunt up some more.
Great book - if I hadn't seen the movie multiple times, I would have enjoyed this more, so I am giving the 5 stars it deserves. Even knowing what was going to happen in advance, it was still an enjoyable read.
If you haven't seen the movie, read the book first for maximum enjoyment.
Btw, both movie versions are great.
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!!!!!
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Mattie Ross, a fourteen-year-old girl from Dardanelle, Arkansas, sets out to avenge her Daddy who was shot to death by a no-good outlaw. Mattie convinces one-eyed "Rooster" Cogburn, the meanest U.S. marshal in the land, to ride along with her. In True Grit, we have a true American classic, as young Mattie -- as vital as she is innocent -- outdickers and outmaneuvers the hard-bitten men of the trail in a legend that will last through the ages.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.