Posts Tagged ‘Charles Portis’

R.I.P., Charles Portis

February 17, 2020

“The Dog of the South,” by Charles Portis.

One of our best and perhaps least known writers, Charles Portis, has gone west. He was 86.

You may recall the name from “True Grit,” which was made into two movies (John Wayne and Jeff Bridges).

But the former New York Herald Tribune reporter also wrote “The Dog of the South,” about a former copy editor who pursues his wife, his Amex card, and her first husband with his chow dog, to Mexico. Being familiar with copy editing, the relentless vindictiveness of American Express, and chow dogs, this naturally spoke to me.

There was also “Norwood,” about an itinerant ex-jarhead trying to collect a debt; “Gringos,” featuring the search for a lost Mayan city; and “Masters of Atlantis,” about a cult based on the “secret wisdom” of that place.

His books were filled with screwballs, dingbats, and scammers, and his use of language was superb, particularly in “True Grit.” At times I wonder whether Thomas McGuane might have absorbed a bit of his style.

And yet hardly anyone knows him, or his work. He guarded his privacy, but the Alzheimer’s stole his wit.

A final bit of strangeness: Roy Reed, the reporter who wrote Portis’ obit for The New York Times, is himself dead. Another, Steve Barnes, handled the finishing touches.