Portis with John Wayne on the set of "True Grit."
The Porter Fund
, founded by Little Rock novelists Jack Butler
and Phillip McMath
in 1984, gives a Lifetime Achievement Award to an Arkansas author every five years, and this year's honoree will be Charles Portis
, author of "Norwood" and "True Grit" and "Gringos" among others. Portis, notably uncomfortable with attention or public spectacle of any sort, will be celebrated with a $200-per-ticket gala at the Governor's Mansion. The night will feature readings by Jay Jennings
, writer and editor of "Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany," Roy Reed
, the great journalist and nonfiction writer (and former Porter winner), and Roy Blount, Jr.
, who once said that Portis "could be Cormac McCarthy if he wanted to, but he'd rather be funny."
Reached by email, Jennings said that while he thought it "very unlikely that [Portis] would attend," the award is "certainly richly deserved, especially when you look at the oeuvre as a whole ... I can't think of many writers who inspire so much fervent admiration across the whole of their body of work and from such a diverse group of people." He cited Wells Tower's appreciation
of "Gringos," and David Cross' recent claim
that "Master of Atlantis" was his “all-time favorite book.”
Remember that the last time
Portis received an award at a gala, he got upstaged by Morgan Freeman, who danced and shed real tears while Portis disappeared for long stretches, studiously dodged photographers, and kept his car keys at the ready. I don't blame him at all, but I still kind of want to go.