Saturday, January 1, 2011

Charles Portis

A nice piece in The Daily Telegraph about the enigmatic Charles Portis, the man who wrote True Grit. Some good stuff in there: I didn't know that Portis was still alive or had lived for several years in England. I haven't actually read True Grit but The Dog of the South was pretty good. Here's a couple of paragraphs from the article:

Known only as “Buddy” to his friends, Portis was born in El Dorado, Arkansas in 1933, to Samuel Palmer Portis, a seventh son, and Alice, the daughter of a Methodist minister and one of 11 children. He had a bucolic upbringing across the state in Mount Holly, a dream of a place where “flying squirrels glided across [the] front yard” and watermelons were left floating in the creeks to cool. Mount Holly had two schools – one for blacks, one for whites – and a backdrop of interesting characters including moonshiners and bootleggers.


Many of his early days were spent swimming outdoors with friends and poring over the adventures of “forgotten comic book heroes like Plastic Man and The Sand Man”. Films were another favourite escape, especially at the “shabby and disreputable Star cinema” in El Dorado, where he would watch westerns. A droll, deadpan humour, evident throughout Portis’s novels, was a family trait. “The Portises were talkers rather than readers or writers,” he said. “[There was] a lot of cigar smoke and laughing when my father and his brothers got together. Long anecdotes.” He [joined] the Marines and fought in the Korean War. On his return to the United States, he took a major in journalism at the University of Arkansas and became a reporter in 1958...

He worked in New York, became a foreign correspondant in London and then decided to jack it all in and write a novel. The novel was True Grit and did well critically and then commercially. Several others followed including Dog of the South which is a Southern Gothic road movie of a book and really funny.

The picture is of Portis with The Duke, I don't know if there's one of Portis with The Dude.