Friday, April 22, 2011

True Grit, The Dog Of The South, Masters Of Atlantis

I went on a Charles Portis reading binge last week tackling three of his novels. I had read Dog of the South before but I remembered nothing of it. Seana Graham sent me Masters of Atlantis from her bookshop in Santa Cruz, California so I thought I'd tackle that one first. It was actually my least favourite of the three but still funny. Its the story of a not so secret society and its growth from World War I to the 1970's, it read a bit like a pastiche of Thomas Pynchon's V and it was hard to get a handle on the novel with no strong central character to guide you through the story. But I still laughed quite a bit and at one point the action shifted to Colorado and for me that counts for something.  
Next I tackled True Grit as an audiobook. It was read by best selling author Donna Tartt who has a lovely Southern accent and reads very well. I had seen both film versions so there weren't many surprises in the tale, but still I enjoyed the novel and I really loved Tartt's excellent narration and her fine afterword where she talks about what True Grit meant to her and her family. I haven't heard of an author reading someone else's book before - maybe this will be the start of a new trend. Salman Rushdie could narrate John LeCarre...or perhaps not.
Finally I reread Dog of the South which was as hilarious as I remembered it. It's the story of a man who pursues his wife and her lover down through Mexico and into Belize in a misguided attempt to get her (and his car) back. It's an episodic adventure and frequently absurd, but what keeps you on the path is the first person narrator who is somewhat unreliable and a bit of a lovable nut. Perhaps I'll tackle Charles Portis's Norwood next which seems to be in a similar vein to this one.