True Grit

True Grit: A Novel - Charles Portis The first line grabbed me, and is a fair summation of the voice and plot: People do not give credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day. So begins the account of Mattie Ross, a "cranky old maid" of fifty-five when she tells of how as a young girl she rode with US Marshall Rooster Cogburn and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf in 1878 Oklahoma. A good first person story depends on a strong voice, and Mattie's is hilarious, with attitude to burn. She's more than a bit scary, and when at one point LaBoeuf takes a switch to her, I found it hard to blame him. Practical, smart, gutsy, humorless herself and spouting Biblical verses left and right, she's absolutely relentless. Her voice is a bit reminiscent of Harper Lee's Scout or Mark Twain's Huck, but I think the afterward is right in saying she's more akin to Captain Ahab of Moby Dick in her single-mindedness. Meaning to hire a federal marshall to track down her father's killer, she asks someone who is the best marshall--she's given three names, but picks Cogburn because he's described as the "meanest." And, of course, Rooster Cogburn is an indelible character as well. I haven't seen the recent film with Jeff Bridges, but the portrayal of him by John Wayne certainly left an impression. He's actually too old for Cogburn, who's only thirty-three here, but I think Wayne's depiction is in the right spirit. There are several differences from the film, and I thought the book a great read.