Reviews in 200 Words

True Grit by Charles Portis, reviewed by Steven Woods

In Novel (Guest Punch by Steven Woods) on January 26, 2011 at 4:18 pm



Read True Grit before you hear too much. Or don’t. What Charles Portis, Henry Hathaway and the Coen brothers seem to agree on, is that this is a tight little story: worth retelling. You might have to decide why for yourself. What was the last book with literary “weight” that proved to be entertaining? Snobs might look at True Grit as fluff, and treat it as a guilty pleasure before they run back to the bookshelf for more Heidegger, Dickens or whomever they force themselves to read in the name of intellectual elitism. But this is more than just entertaining. It’s written with laser-sighted focus and driven through a precocious 14-year old heroine who wants to bring her father’s murderer to justice. My name is Mattie Ross, of Near Dardanelle in Yell County. My family owns property, and I don’t know why I’m being treated like this! This young woman experiences the wide berth of “gray” between the poles of black/white or good/evil and emerges understanding that life owes nothing. Still, despite her loss-realization, Portis won’t let Ross off easily and makes even the innocent pay for trespassing into the dark areas of the human psyche.

-Steven Woods



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