Title: True Grit
Author: Charles Portis
Published: 1968; Pages: 224
Genre: Fiction, Western?
True Grit is Mattie Ross’s tale about how she left home at the age of fourteen to seek revenge upon her father’s murderer, Tom Chaney. She enlists the help of U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn and together with Texas Ranger LaBoeuf they travel from Fort Smith, Arkansas into the wilds of the Oklahoma Indian Territory. Set in the late 1800s.
Why I read it: Work book club, though no one finished the book in time so we didn’t meet. Again. #fail.
Thoughts in general: At the back of my copy, there is an afterward by Donna Tartt who is obviously very enamored by the book. As is all her family and everyone she lends the book to. I, on the other hand, didn’t get it. I ended the last paragraph thinking, “Huh” [with a period, question mark, and exclamation point] and so was very curious as to why this Tartt lady loved the book so much. I’m trying to put my finger on just what it is about the book that I didn’t get—the premise is incredibly simple and seems as though it would make a classic story, the characters all have lots of potential, and there’s even a great deal of action sequences.
So, what gives? The narrator, Mattie, retells her story years after the events have occurred which creates a great amount of distance in her narrative. There were times when I laughed out loud at her thoughts and overall I could tell that there was a fair amount of dry wit in the writing, but the distance and resulting lack of emotion was too much for me to overcome. The characters had great potential–especially Rooster Cogburn and LaBoeuf (pronounced LaBeef), but they fell flat with Mattie’s dry storytelling.
Bottom Line: Because this one has been made into two movies and Bookfool loved it, I feel like I should keep it around to try out in a few years. Afterall, it is short enough to re-read fairly quickly. Maybe I need to read it with a different tone in mind, or maybe…I don’t know. This reading, though? Just didn’t do it for me and I closed the book hardly caring about what had happened. Don’t you hate that?
The only passage I took the time to mark:
“The marshals were unloading the prisoners and poking them sharply along with their Winchester repeating rifles. The men were all chained together like fish on a string. They were mostly white men but there were also some Indians and half-breeds and Negroes. It was awful to see but you must remember that these chained beasts were murderers and robbers and train wreckers and bigamists and counterfeiters, some of the most wicked men in the world. They had ridden the ‘hoot-owl trail’ and tasted the fruits of evil and now justice had caught up with them to demand payment. You must pay for everything in this world one way or another. There is nothing free except the Grace of God. You cannot earn that or deserve it” (40).
Thoughts on the movie remake directed by Joel and Ethan Coen: first, I love those Coen brothers. Love them. When Scott and I watched the preview for this movie months ago, I had two remarks: 1. Bad Ass! 2. Oscar Movie. After seeing the movie I can say that at least one of those remarks came true. I enjoyed the movie much more than the book, which is highly unusual for me, but mostly it was just OK. The tone that should have come across stronger in the book–the dry wit and frankness of Mattie Ross–was much more evident in the movie. Mostly I was entertained but there were parts that dragged a bit and there may have even been a few parts where I struggled to keep my eyes open (shhhh!). Scott, though, hated the movie. We have very different tastes in movies, it’s true, but for him to openly express his disdain with such force is uncommon. When it comes to shoot em up Coen Brothers movie, I’d go for No Country for Old Men.
The preview does make the movie look fantastic, though!
Have you read the book or watched the movie (original or remake)? Can you tell me what I’m missing??
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