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August 14th, 2011

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09:14 pm - True Grit
It was good to get away but I didn't do much reading (a little bit of Lovecraft). We were walking, eating and then sleeping. Very, very relaxing, which we both needed. We stayed at Monsal, and walked up and down the disused railway between Buxton and Bakewell. This May they opened all the closed tunnels, so you can walk the full route of the line.

Since I started at the Uni I have been listening to books on audio as I work to work and back. I have just finished True Grit, by Charles Portis, read by of all people Donna Tartt, who also provides a glowing afterword.

Tartt compares True Grit to another recent novel I have enjoyed - The Young Visiters by Daisy Ashford. It seems a strange comparison - an Edwardian novelty book by a nine year old girl, and a hard-boiled Western published in 1968 - but I do know what she means. Both books are written in a calmly ruthless and naive style, with deadpan humour.

Mattie Ross, the protagonist of True Grit, is a fantastic character - 14 years old, and implacably tough-minded. The world she moves in - Indian territory a few years after the Civil War - is the world of Deadwood. She accepts the violence and harshness of the world with the simplicity of a child, and she asks for no quarter. She is unconsciously very funny.

Many people have said that True Grit is a moral story about the consequences of selfishness, and I was convinced by reviews claiming that the Coen Brothers film has this theme. But I don't think the book does. I don't think it has a simple moral theme at all. Instead it is about human character and strength.

It is written in a clear, simple, very readable style. I think it is a good attempt by a man to present a female subjectivity, without moralising, and without making the independent woman either sorry or monstrous.

Like Cormac McCarthy, but Funny: An Essay on True Grit by Ed Park.

(3 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:August 15th, 2011 07:30 am (UTC)
Oh, I just bought True Grit on my Kindle. I thought the Coen Brothers film was nearly a masterpiece.
[User Picture]
Date:August 15th, 2011 07:35 am (UTC)
It is the best film I have seen this year; sometimes it takes a few months to realise which ones stick with me. Her lively reading and commentary has made me want to read one or other of Tartt's novels.
[User Picture]
Date:August 15th, 2011 07:45 am (UTC)
I remember tearing through The Secret History, although it's nearly twenty years now since I read it (gulp) so I've no idea whether I'd still like it or not. But compulsively readable.

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