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True Grit Paperback – December 31, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Press; Reprint edition (December 31, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585673692
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585673698
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (389 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,891,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"As entertaining and original as any fiction of recent times." -- St. Louis Dispatch

"Charles Portis is perhaps the most original, indescribable sui generis talent overlooked by literary culture in America." -- Ron Rosenbaum, Esquire

"True Grit is when you are a 14-year-old girl from Yell County, Arkansas, and you've just shot a dangerous outlaw and the gun's recoil has sent you backward into a pit, and you are wedged in the pit and sinking fast into the cave below where bats are brushing against your legs, and you reach out for something to hold on to and find a rotting corpse beside you and it's full of angry rattlers, and then it turns out you didn't kill the outlaw, he's up at the rim of the pit laughing at you, about to shoot you-and you don't lose your nerve. That's True Grit." -- Eliot Fremont-Smith, The New York Times

An instant it and have the most fun you've had reading a novel in years, maybe decades. -- Newsday

About the Author

Charles Portis lives in Arkansas, where he was born and educated. He served in the Marine Corps during the Koren War. As a reporter, he wrote for the New York Herald-Tribune and was also its London bureau chief. He is the author of four other novels, including Masters of Atlantis, The Dog of the South, Norwood, and Gringos.

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Customer Reviews

Great narration, great characters, great story.
As a fan of the John Wayne and Jeff Bridges movie versions, I was curious to read the book on which both were based.
Overall a good story that I recommend to western fans.
Ky. Col.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

128 of 134 people found the following review helpful By R. J. Maxwell on November 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
I love this novel, having stumbled across it in a used bookstore some 20 years ago, having read it expecting not much more than stilted prose and shootouts, and having returned to it again and again since that first reading.

It's written in the first person, kind of like a memoir, by an old woman describing a youthful adventure. And what an adventure! Shootouts are the least of it.

Mattie Ross, the adolescent girl, is stingy, opinionated, unsentimental, and as tough as John Wayne, if not as big and strong. She conforms to Northrop Frye's concept of the "ironic" hero -- too naive to understand the things she's dealing with, like Voltaire's "Candide." When her ability to keep up during the pursuit of some outlaws is questioned, she answers defiantly, "Pappa took me on a coon hunt once." Camping overnight with the two lawmen, she registers a succinct complaint, "One of the officers made a wet snoring sound. It was disgusting."

But the prose is delirious throughout, like the events they describe. There's a laugh on almost every page, far too many to give examples. I should mention too that the prose is historically and regionally accurate. About a bucket of milk, Matty says, "It looks like bluejohn to me." I looked up "bluejohn" in the Dictionary of American Regional English, and there it was, an old term used in and around Arkansas for skim milk. Likewise, kerosene becomes coal oil. Tall scrubby weeds are a "brake." And all of these regionalisms are woven into a prose style that is memorably idiosyncratic and unintentionally funny as all get out! Rooster Cogburn intends to shoot an unsuspecting man in the back because, "It will give them to know our intentions is serious." Now that's a sentence to savor. First of all, there is the absurdity of the plan.
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63 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Schlechter on November 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
I'm not sure what more I can say than, "Wow!" I don't know if I've ever been more surprised by a book. I ran across it a few times in the library and thought about checking it out, but then I kept remembering that John Wayne won his only Oscar in the movie version (which I haven't seen), and I don't really care for John Wayne, so that must have subconsciously led me to keep leaving it on the shelf. But, I finally picked it up, took it home, dipped into it -- and was instantly hooked. This is a gripping book about the single-minded pursuit justice in the 1870s, written in the amazing voice of a deadpan, plain-speaking prose of a woman looking back at the events some 30-40 years later.

Mattie Ross's beloved rancher father was murdered by a drunk hired hand while they were away on business, and Mattie's ineffectual mother sends her to town to collect the body. She does so, but also seeks out a U.S. Marshall whom she can tempt into heading into the Indian Territory of modern-day Oklahoma to track down and kill or capture the murderer. The crusty lawman she eventually hires has his flaws, including a taste for the drink and sordid service in the Civil War with Quantrill's Raiders (or one of the other loose raiding companies). But he also has a code he follows which makes him the right match for Mattie, who sees life in black and white absolutes. They are joined by a Texas lawman pursing the man for another crime (and substantial bounty) and the trio head off to find their man. Adventures and surprises ensue, including plenty of shooting and killing -- all recounted in the sparse and often unintentionally funny voice of the elder Mattie. Her voice is singular and riveting, making Mattie instantly into one of my favorite characters in American literature. The book is a true masterpiece- I'm buying 10 copies and giving them out as Christmas presents.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 7, 1997
Format: Paperback
I was eleven the first time I read this. I bought it at one of those book-mobile sales in school after seeing (and totally falling in love with) the movie. Probably the only thing I ever bought in elementary school that I still have. I thought it was incredible then, and (20 years later) I still love it! The writing style is so straight-forward and unaffected that you can't help but be drawn into Mattie's adventure (and you can't help but believe every dang word that comes out of her mouth). How refreshing to read a story about a fourteen year old girl who isn't mooning over some boy or whining about some stereotypical teenage dilemma. We're talking about a girl out to avenge her father's death - I mean, here is a girl with a mission! What a great story. I think the title says it all.
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59 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Jym Cherry on November 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
Charles Portis' "True Grit" is the story of Mattie Ross a 14 year old girl in the old west circa 1875. After her father is murdered Mattie goes in search of justice for him and falls in with U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn who, along with Texas Ranger, LaBeouf follow the murderer into the Indian Territory. The story is familiar to most because of the 1969 movie starring John Wayne. With the release of the Coen Brothers "True Grit" I wanted to see what the book was like.

Mattie Ross is beyond precocious. She's practical, stubborn, judgmental and has grit enough herself to hire the orneriest U.S. Marshall she can find and embark on an adventure into a life she wasn't born to and had her father not been killed probably wouldn't have known anything of the world she ventures into. Cogburn is a Marshall that has tenuous connections to both the world of the law and the outlaw and when he meets Mattie he's working in the world that pays the best, at the moment. Cogburn's voice fairly booms off the page (and it's hard not to hear Wayne's voice in them), but Mattie's voice also has it's character more diminutive but no less strong. Portis develops the characters mostly through their voice and you won't be mistaken about who's talking or what they're saying. The story is so simply told it could almost be part of an oral tradition and told from the point of view of Mattie remembering back upon her life maybe that's the way it was intended.

In Donna Tartt's afterward she compares Mattie to Huck Finn and Ahab, but I think she may be reading too much into it that isn't there. "True Grit" is Mattie practical and plainspoken. Mattie says exactly what's on her mind and in the story Portis tells us exactly what's there (not even what isn't there), and usually only enough to move the story along.
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