Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tough old (*young!*) girl

True Grit by Charles Portis


So I hear there’s a movie by this name…



…which makes sense.

This is a rip-roaring good story.


And one of the things that makes it even better is the young female narrator who’s almost too tough to be true. But since she’s telling the story from the later years of her life, as a tough old gal, it becomes completely credible that this crusty old woman would have been one tough cookie as a girl.


It’s the 1870s, and Mattie Ross, age 14, is out to avenge the death of her father, who was shot in cold blood by their hired man. The law ain’t doing nothing about it, so Mattie decides to take care of business.


One of my favorite parts is this: Mattie visits the sheriff and asks who is the best U.S. marshal. (She’s going to hire herself a marshal by offering a reward for the capture of the killer.) The sheriff ponders it aloud, describing the attributes of several marshals, including: “The meanest one is Rooster Cogburn. He is a pitiless man, double-tough, and fear don’t enter into his thinking. He loves to pull a cork.” He goes on to describe a fellow named Quinn and concludes that Quinn is the best there is. To which Mattie replies, “Where can I find this Rooster?” (pp. 25-26)


So it comes to pass that Mattie, Rooster, and another fellow named LaBoeuf ride off after the killer and his band of miscreants. While this is a great adventure story, it’s the language—the sharp dialogue—that caught my attention.


While Mattie is looking for a man with true grit, of course she’s the one who’s really got what it takes. But those two fellas—Rooster and LaBoeuf—were not half bad in the end.


This book stands out because of Mattie’s voice. That’s it, pure and simple.


2 comments:

Bybee said...

I like that part, too. I like how he starts out.."I would have to weigh it that proposition..." I love this book so much...I even love the punctuation and the spaces between the words.

Unruly Reader said...

Yup. It's pretty darn amazing, this book. I love how it feels older than a 1960s book.