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Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany Hardcover – October 1, 2012
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-John Powers, NPR's "Fresh Air"
"I tore through Escape Velocity and then went back and read most of the works again, because they are that compelling."
-Alex Balk, The Awl
"The overviews, tributes, and selections from Portis's work make this book just right for any reader.... His satire sings without condescension. ... He's a kind of American Chaucer."
--Clyde Edgerton, Garden & Gun
"Escape Velocity is a major Portis event."
--Alex Heard, The New Republic
"Jay Jennings has done a great service in putting together Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany and providing it with an excellent introduction and appreciation.... Delray's New Moon, the single example here of Portis as a dramatist, is a wonderful black comedy and tour de force of inspired dialog."
--Katherine A. Powers, The Barnes & Noble Review
--Carlo Rotella, The New York Times Book Review
"The book's introduction, which notes the hallmarks of Mr. Portis's brand of humor without talking them to death, provides an ideal primer for readers coming to Mr. Portis fresh.... His newspaper writing is as richly textured as any of the New Journalism that emerged in the 1960s but with none of the fireworks that betray the writer's effort at innovation."
--Wes Davis, Wall Street Journal
"The comparison [with Mark Twain] is apt -- more than for any other writer I can think of, including Kurt Vonnegut and H. L. Mencken."
--Maud Newton, The New York Times
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Top Customer Reviews
The book also contains a full-length, three-act play, "Delmar's New Moon", previously unpublished, which shows off Portis's trademark dead-pan style. Especially interesting are the non-fiction pieces, including some he wrote for newspapers during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and a long essay, "Combinations of Jacksons". These early pieces show the writing style that later shaped his fiction.
This is a must-have book for Portis fans and a thoughtful introduction for those new to the work of Charles Portis.
Yet it would be a mistake to equate Mr. Portis's range of diction with Mattie's. In fact, he is a true post-modern author, with a palette of available voices -- many richly southwestern -- that mix irony, sharp observation, and emblems of unfulfilled sincerity in ways different from the good and great eastern, southern, mid-western, or western American writers I've read. His closest antecedent is perhaps Thornton Wilder in Heaven's My Destination, though the two writers could hardly be mistaken for one another.
The generous anthology Escape Velocity allows us to observe Mr. Portis writing in several habitats. His is a flexible yet recognizable craft. He was a newsman first, and on the evidence here one who did not shrink from covering the difficult subjects of his era, including the Civil Rights movement. Even the earliest reportage gathered here, three pieces on the death of Elvis Presley's mother, aims for something that pierces the veil of appearance, not to mention PR. A few years later Mr. Portis quit a distinguished career with the New York Herald Tribune in London just as soon as he was sure he was ready to to write fiction.
While True Grit is, thanks to Hollywood, his best known story, in the world of fiction Mr. Portis is no one-hit wonder. Many acquainted with his other four published novels think at least one or two of them even better than True Grit.Read more ›
The pieces in this collection go a long way towards making the case that Portis is one of the great men of letters in American literature post-1945, with a keen ear for sayings and characters that most other people might miss (or dismiss) entirely. The non-fiction pieces in particular are revelatory: Portis earned his stripes as a journalist, and here we see him covering the death of Elvis' mother while picking up on the nuances of the moment (how Elvis had to balance his private grief with his public obligations, not just to his fans but to the Army into which he was drafted). I was hesitant about the short fiction pieces: Portis' novels contain such fantastical moments that often times they need the space that a novel provides to give them weight, and I worried that short fiction might reveal the man behind the curtain, in a sense, as not being the same at the great novelist whose works I'd read and enjoyed previously. But not to fret: the short fiction, while not being up to the same standards as his longform work, is sparkling with intelligence and wit. I did skip over the play included in this volume, however (I do plan to return to it some day), as well as the long interview towards the end. I wanted to save some Portis for another day, as I've read all his novels and didn't want to necessarily come to the end of his published work.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Lots of gems in here, but I gave it five stars for Portis's essay "An Auto Odyssey through Darkest Baja," one of the funniest and most perfect pieces of writing I've ever... Read morePublished 3 months ago by T. Hover
Portis, author of Norwood and True Grit, is a national treasure. This delightful collection confirms his great talent.Published 3 months ago by oleaginous
Excellent review of Portis' career. I really liked this book. I purchased two, one for me , one for a gift to some lucky person. Price was good.Published 13 months ago by flem j connell
I've read all of Charles Portis' books, and was therefore pleased to find this additional material. Not only is the reader treated to the author's unique first person voice, he... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Luckydawg
I never knew much about Portis' career. A lot of very good stuff here, mostly solid, simple reporting on the newspaper articles, and the bits of fiction were typically subtle,... Read morePublished 19 months ago by MotoJoe
There is no one like Charles Portis in American letters.
He wrote five novels, all of which are revered in different orders of preference by his ardent fans. Read more