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True Grit Paperback – December 30, 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 524 customer reviews

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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 classic...read 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 Korean War, was the London bureau chief of the New York Herald-Tribune, and was a writer for The New Yorker.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Press; Reprint edition (December 30, 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: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (524 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,136,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback
I have read True Grit about 16 times. Every time I go into The Strand or any book store I find a copy and prop it up on the fiction table hoping to infect someone else with the Portis bug. I have read all of his work, even "Gringos," and it is all as funny and real as "True Grit," especially "Norwood." I lobby high school teachers to get "True Grit" or "Norwood" on reading lists and I lend out copies left and right or give them away in the hopes of widening Portis' sphere of influence.

But enough about me. "True Grit" is such a great read, full of jokes. I know I won't do them justice but here are a couple of scenes I like: The degenerate Marshall Rooster Cockburn lives in the back of a general store with a Chinese guy and a cat called Genera Price. He sleeps in a string bed (!) and shoots a rat during a business meeting with Mattie, the 14-year-old protagonist out after her father's killer. Or after Mattie tries to buy a horse from a local business man, vexing him beyond all limits, the business man sees her walking up the path and says "I heard tell of a young girl drowning in a well last night. But I can see you are fine." And the horse Blackie is such a good horse and the scene near the tail of the book where Blackie meets his end is so succinct and sad!

This is a great book that I think just about everyone would enjoy from 10-year-olds to 75 year-olds

Portis is supposedly holed up in a fishing shack in Arkansas writing a new book. I have a google search on his name to keep track of all Portis activity! I can't wait!
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