So I am sitting in the basement of the Gary Library, surrounded by the psychology collection, shivering in my down coat and Peruvian hat, conversing with one of my new semester students, and I started talking about True Grit (which I taught to a student last semester) and Dog of the South, and then I went online and checked my Twitter feeds and there was a link to this great Bill Morris review of Escape Velocity, A Charles Portis Miscellany @ The Millions. Terrific read, especially if it takes you back to the Portis novels.
1. Wisdom in the Wit
If you share my fascination with the mysterious ways writers get made, you’ll be thrilled by a new book called Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany. Edited by a long-time Portis devotee, the Arkansas-based writer Jay Jennings, this collection is a virtual connect-the-dots diagram of how Portis the novelist was forged in the newsrooms of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Arkansas Gazette and the New York Herald Tribune, the papers where Portis worked as a reporter and columnist from the late 1950s until the mid-1960s. After a year as the Herald Tribune’s London correspondent, Portis left newspapering in 1964 and went back home to Arkansas to set up shop as a novelist. Over the next quarter-century, he produced five novels that are universally regarded, by those who bothered to read them, as classics.