Saturday, 9 April 2016

Book review: True Grit, by Charles Portis

This novel hands down is in my top-5 of all time. I absolutely love it. The 2010 film adaptation by the Coen brothers was good but a film can never quite capture the imagination like a book does. The plot is pretty simple: the main character —  a 14-year-old girl named Mattie Ross — is out to find the man who murdered her father. She enlists the help of a Marshal named Rooster Cogburn and she is adamant on joining the hunt herself. The third main character in the story is a Texas Ranger named LeBoeuf who joins Mattie and Rooster in the hunt for reasons of his own. As I said, the plot is pretty simple. What is standout however is the dialog and conversational exchanges between these three characters. So frank, so direct, so different! I absolutely love it. The actor Barry Pepper who plays Lucky Ned Pepper in the 2010 film adaptation described the language as American Shakespeare! That's a great way to describe it. Here are some of my favourite passages from the book:

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Mattie: "... I have since learned that Judge Isaac Parker watched all his hangings from an upper window in the Courthouse. I suppose he did this from a sense of duty. There is no knowing what is in a man's heart."

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Mattie: "... The watch was of brass but not very expensive but I was surprised to find it because people who will not steal big things will often steal little things like that..."

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Mattie: "... There is nothing free except the Grace of God. You cannot earn that or deserve it."

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Goudy: "You were backing away?"
Cogburn: "Yes sir. He had that ax raised."
Goudy: "Which direction were you going?"
Cogburn: "I always go backward when I am backing up."

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Mattie: "I would not put a thief in my mouth to steal my brains." (Mattie Ross' response to Rooster Cogburn who offers her a spoonful of Whiskey to help treat her cold whilst they're in the process of negotiating the details of their business agreement.)

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Mattie: "I have never wasted any time encouraging drunkards of show-offs."

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Cogburn: "You might think that Polk Goudy is a fine gentleman to look at his clothes, but he is sorriest son of a bitch that God ever let breathe."

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Mattie: "Well, it is nothing to me one way or the other except that when we get Chaney he is not going to Texas, he is coming back to Fort Smith to hang."
LeBoeuf: "Haw haw. It is not important where he hangs, is it?"
Mattie: "It is to me. Is it to you?"
LeBoeuf: "It means a good deal of money to me. Would not a hanging in Texas serve as well as a hanging in Arkansas?"
Mattie: "No... I want Chaney to pay for killing my father and not some Texas bird dog."
LeBoeuf: "It will not be for the dog, it will be for the senator, and your father too. He will be just as dead that way, you see, and pay for all his crimes at once."
Mattie: "No, I do not see. That is not the way I look at it."

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Mattie: "Men will live like billy goats if they are left alone."

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Cogburn: "... A man my age ought to have a good bed if he has nothing else..."

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Cogburn: "I will not be stopping at boardinghouses with warm beds and plates of hot grub on the table. It will be travelling fast and eating light. What little sleeping is done will take place on the ground."
Mattie: "I have slept out at night. Papa took me and little Frank coon hunting last summer on the Petit Jean."
Cogburn: "Coon hunting?"
Mattie: "We were out in the woods all night. We sat around a big fire and Yarnell told ghost stories. We had a good time."
Cogburn: "Blast coon hunting! This ain't no coon hunt, it don't come in forty miles of being a coon hunt!"
Mattie: "It is the same idea as a coon hunt. You are just trying to make your work sound harder than it is."

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Mattie: "You think I am wrong."
Stonehill: "I think you are wrongheaded."

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Cogburn: "... I robbed one of them little high-interest banks there. Thought I was doing a good service. You can't rob a thief, can you?.."

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Cogburn: "... You go for a man hard enough and fast enough and he don't have time to think about many is with him, he thinks about himself and how may get clear out of the wrath that is about to set down on him."

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