For those who care about literature or simply love a good laugh (or both), Charles Portis has long been one of America’s most admired novelists. His 1968 novel True Grit is fixed in the contemporary canon, and four more have been hailed as comic masterpieces. Now, for the first time, his other writings–journalism, travel stories, short fiction, memoir, and even a play–have been brought together in Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany, his first new book in more than twenty years.
All the familiar Portis elements are here: picaresque adventures, deadpan humor, an expert eye for detail and keen ear for the spoken word, and encounters with oddball characters both real and imagined. The collection encompasses the breadth of his fifty-year writing career, from his gripping reportage of the civil rights movement for the New York Herald Tribune to a comic short story about the demise of journalism in the 21st century. New to even the most ardent fan is his three-act play, Delray’s New Moon, performed onstage in 1996 and published here for the first time.
About Charles Portis and Jay Jennings
Jay Jennings lives in his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas, where he is a freelance writer. His work appears regularly in the New York Times Book Review, and his writing has been recognized by the Best American Sports Writing annual and has been included in the humor anthologies Mirth of a Nation and The Lowbrow Reader Reader. His book Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City was named a 2010 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.
Charles Portis was born and raised in south Arkansas, graduating from Hamburg High School. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War, earned a journalism degree from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and became a newspaper reporter. He worked for the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock, and the New York Herald Tribune, for which he became London bureau chief. He left that job to return to Arkansas–where he still lives–and write fiction. He is the author of five acclaimed novels: Norwood, True Grit, The Dog of the South, Masters of Atlantis, and Gringos. True Grit was made into two award-winning films, the first in 1969 starring John Wayne and the other in 2010 directed by the Coen brothers.
Portis ‘Miscellany’ Makes A High-’Velocity’ Collection
NPR Book Review – October 25, 2012 (Excerpt)
Whenever I hear someone called a “cult writer,” my hackles jump toward the ceiling. It’s not only that the phrase calls up images of self-congratulatory hipsters, but that writers who become cultish tend to do so because their work is steeped in bizarro sex, graphic violence, trippy weirdness or half-baked philosophy.
The grand exception is my favorite American writer, 78-year-old Charles Portis, who could hardly be less hip. This ex-Marine loves cars, knows guns, can’t stand hippies and lives off the media radar in Little Rock, Ark., without being famous for trying not to be famous. If his name rings a bell, it’s because he wrote True Grit, a sneaky-dark Western that inspired two movies and was the closest he ever came to trying to write the Great American Novel. Yet among Portis’ followers — and yes, we’re a cult — that book doesn’t display what makes him special. For us, thinking that True Grit is the best of his five novels is like saying “Hey Jude” is the Beatles at their finest. [Read the full article...]
‘Escape Velocity,’ by Charles Portis
SFGate.Com Book Review – December 7, 2012 (Excerpt)
There are many forms of detective work a reader can apply to a novelist, and most of them are debased. Decoding the biography behind the fiction? Forever missing the point. Listening for tones of “genius” in the juvenilia? Slightly more interesting, but still tabloid stuff.
Yet “Escape Velocity,” a new collection of old journalism, middle-aged essays and stray fiction by Charles Portis, sees a sleuthing project predict, even justify, art. If the writer is good enough (and Portis turns out to be great), even beat reporting may subtly – lingering on a character, hanging a quote out to dry – gesture at bigger thinking. It can winkingly show how a novel might be useful right about now. (In 30 years, might the early Twitter work of a new generation suggest the same?)
And Portis the reporter is sly, an odd attribute for deadline files on civil rights battles (his gig in the early ’60s, pre-”True Grit” and “Norwood”), but utterly effective. Anyone can skewer a Klan rally; it takes Charles Portis to report “badly tailored cotton sheeting.” Elsewhere he simply observes, in newsprint, newsmen in “newspaper hats.” Relating the facts was never such fun. [Read the full article...]
DOODLEBUGS & SPITFIRES
Memories and Short Stories by Peter Carroll
“Doodlebugs & Spitfires” is a delightful collection of memories and short stories written by Peter Carroll, the author of “Queen of Misfortune,” in his trademark poetic and profoundly thoughtful style.
Most of his stories, previously published in limited form in local English newspapers and magazines, like “Brave New World”, “The Forties Street Tradesmen”, “Doodlebugs”, or “The Christmas of 43” evolve around his childhood in the Northern part of London during and after World War II. He describes the horrors that came with the V1 flying bombs, nicknamed the “Doodlebugs.” Heroic British pilots in their “Spitfire” airplanes would attempt to divert the flying bombs from the populated areas, sometimes successful, and sometimes not.
Doodlebugs & Spitfires is available at Amazon.Com and its Kindle store, Amazon.co.uk and its Kindle store, Barnes & Noble, and any other good bookstore.