A tribute to Portis | Rock Candy

A tribute to Portis



Charles Portis at Oxford American the Oxford Americans
  • Rett Peek

In advance of the Coens' film adaptation of "True Grit," Charles Portis gets a loving tribute in the New York Times Magazine. It's a tribute, not a profile because, while the Times writer does interview Portis in Little Rock, Portis gives the interview with the condition that he not be quoted, though as he tells a mutual friend of the Times writer, "it pained him to impose such conditions, because he didn’t want to be the kind of guy who imposes conditions."

We got a first hand look at wary-of-attention Portis back in April at the Oxford American gala.

From the Times Magazine piece:

In November, I met him in a bar beside the Arkansas River in Little Rock. Portis, a hardy-looking fellow of 76, wearing jeans and a tan Members Only jacket, seemed ill at ease — not his normal state, especially in a saloon. A veteran of the Korean War and the newspaper trade in Arkansas, New York and London, he has long enjoyed a reputation in newsrooms and barrooms as a world-class raconteur and collector of characters, and he was described by Tom Wolfe (who worked with him at The New York Herald-Tribune in the 1960s) as “the original laconic cutup,” but this time he appeared to be torn between the wish to be present and the wish to be elsewhere. It occurred to me that he did not want to turn into one of his own characters, making himself ridiculous by trying to perform the role of Big-Deal Southern Littérateur.

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