By Charles Portis
Why this book?
I chose all the books on this list because they helped me create a voice for Cathy alive with the intelligence, strength, humor, and resilience that allowed her both to make her heroic decision and to survive the harshest duty the Army could dish out. That voice also had to feel 19th Century and be far more Western than Southern.
There was no better place to start than, True Grit by the writer’s writer, Charles Portis. Renowned as an exemplar of voice, True Grit gives us two indelible characters, fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross, who is hunting the hired hand who murdered her father and “Rooster” Cogburn, the drunken U.S. Marshal Mattie hires to track the murderer into Indian Territory.
I love every word Portis has ever written. And so, apparently, does Hollywood as not one, but two, adaptations of True Grit have made it to the screen with more dialogue borrowed directly from the source than any other book to film translation I can think of.
Like the lucky screenwriters who had the good sense not to rewrite perfection, I was utterly taken with and found my own inspiration in Mattie’s distinctively deadpan, forthright voice with its solemnly funny, frontier stoicism.
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