Monday, April 6, 2015

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 210: Read “True Grit” by Charles Portis

“True Grit” by Charles Portis is not only considered to be one of the finest Western novels ever written, but many also consider it to be one of the finest American novels of all time, regardless of genre. This novel was originally published in the 1960s, but I can’t honestly say that I’d ever heard much about it until a resurgence in its popularity in 2010, when a new motion picture version of the novel hit theatres. Seeing the movie made me want to read the book, so I added it to my “bucket list” a couple of years ago.

Originally published in 1968, “True Grit” is the story of 14-year-old Mattie Ross, an Arkansas girl who hires a crusty, old U.S. Marshall to track down outlaw Tom Chaney, who shot her father during a drunken argument. Together, Ross and her hired marshal, a one-eyed Confederate veteran named Rooster Cogburn, venture into the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) to bring Chaney to justice. The story is told from the point of view of a much older Ross, who is relating the story 25 years after the events took place.

Many of you will be familiar with this novel thanks to the two motion picture adaptations of “True Grit.” The first movie came out in 1969 and starred John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper. The second adaptation came out in 2010 and featured Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper. I only recently watched the 2010 version, and I have to admit that I’ve never seen the John Wayne 1969 version.

“True Grit” was first released in 1968, but the edition of the book that I read was the 2010 paperback edition, which was released along with the 2010 motion picture adaptation of the novel. At 240 pages, this book was a relatively quick read. I started reading it last Thursday and finished it on Saturday.

Upon reading “True Grit” for the first time, I was surprised to catch a few references to individuals from Southwest Alabama in its pages. If you read the book closely, you’ll catch references to ill-fated Alamo commander William Barrett Travis and famous outlaw John Wesley Hardin. Travis grew up in Conecuh and Monroe counties in Alabama, and Hardin lived in Escambia County, Ala. for nearly two years.

Having now read the “True Grit” novel, I’m now left wanting to add a few related items to my “bucket list.” I definitely want to watch the 1969 motion picture adaptation starring John Wayne, and I also want to check out some of Portis’s other books. According to Wikipedia, in addition to “True Grit,” Portis has written four other novels. They are “Norwood” (1966), “The Dog of the South” (1979), “Masters of Atlantis” (1985) and “Gringos” (1991).

In the end, how many of you have read “True Grit”? What did you think about it? Have you read any of Portis’s other books? Which is your favorite? What other Western books would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

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