Wednesday, 19 September 2012

True Grit

I'm reading True Grit at the moment, the 1968 novel by Charles Portis set just after the American Civil War in which the teenage daughter of a murdered Arkansas rancher sets out to track down her father's killer.

Like most people who read the book, I've seen the film based on it in which John Wayne plays Rooster Cogburn, the U.S. marshal she hires to help her apprehend the wanted man in the Indian Territory. The film only hints though at the extent to which Portis manages as a first-person narrator to imitate the voice of the determined and independent Scripture-quoting Mattie Ross.

True Grit seems to be overlooked as a literary work because it falls into the category "Western". I've also just read the novel Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth, about the role of the slave trade in the industrialisation of Britain in the late eighteenth century. Apparently when it won the Booker Prize in 1992 there was criticism that a "historical novel" had been given the award.

As Bo Diddley sang, you can't judge a book by looking at the cover.

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