Saturday, January 05, 2008

True Grit by Charles Portis

Michael Ondaatje is a well-documented fan of Charles Portis (and also Walter Tevis) and as I do all things Ondaatje, I picked up this novel, best known probably as the movie that finally won John Wayne an Oscar. And it was a great surprise to me. It's a very funny western tall tale (written in the 1960s) about a thirteen year old girl avenging the death of her father with the help of a one-eyed marshal (the Wayne character, Rooster Cogburn) and a Texas Ranger. I'm always on the look out for heroic female characters and not knowing a thing about the plot other than there was a character for John Wayne to play when he was old, I was pleasantly surprised to find one here. Now if only there would be more novels in which grown women get to play the hero (I guess they do in comic books).

I also recently read the kid lit novel Holes by Louis Sachar which was good fun and like True Grit makes great use of the tall tale form. Magic realism seems to have replaced tall tales as the popular way to break from realism, but I'm all for the sense of humor that seems to so often come with characters who are ten feet larger than life.

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