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.