I read True Grit by Charles Portis when I was fifteen. Last night I listened to a radio version on the BBC. I’d forgotten how good it was.
The two movie versions are great, whether you prefer John Wayne’s bombastic Rooster Cogburn or Jeff Bridges more gnarly version of the same. In fact, all the major characters work well in both movies (I even like Glen Campbell as Le Boeuf) and both movies are totally enjoyable.
But the book. I remember it being described back then as a ‘potboiler’ – now it’s being hailed as an American Classic. I think it’s a fine book. The way the people speak is so chewable, so infused with the language and cadence St. James bible, but authentically American, and Mattie Ross is one of the great American characters – a fourteen year-old with the manner of an irascible spinster.
As with Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I’m not sure which ending I prefer – the real, darker ending, or the 1969 movie ending. Both are life-affirming, both are tinged with sadness.