by Charles Portis
I almost never read Westerns. I think this is because some of the elements of Western life bore me. I don’t really care about the difference between a Winchester and a Mauser, nor am I all that interested in horses, homesteads, and hangings. But I’m beginning to think this oater aversion of mine is a mistake, because some of the best books I’ve read – in any genre – are Westerns.
I am referring to Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, and I am referring to this book. In both novels, the hook is the characters. In True Grit, it’s the voice of one character in particular, 14-year-old Mattie Ross, who narrates the story. Mattie, who never met a contraction she would not like to flatten, is a bible-thumping delight as she interacts with some of the roughest characters of the old West. One critic said True Grit “captures the naïve elegance of the American voice,” and I think that sums up the humor Portis mines so well, using the indomitable Mattie as his catalyst.
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