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An appreciation of the late Charles Portis by Donna Tartt in The New York Times.

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Portis died in February. I’ve loved his work all my life — “The Dog of the South” is a family favorite, as is “Masters of Atlantis” — though the work closest to me is “True Grit,” which I recorded as an audiobook a number of years ago. I’m often asked how I came to record another author’s book; most simply, the answer is voice. I grew up hearing “True Grit” read aloud to me by my mother and my grandmother and even my great-grandmother. This was a tremendous gift, as Portis caught better than any writer then alive the complex and highly inflected regional vernacular I heard spoken as a child — mannered and quaint, old-fashioned and highly constructed but also blunt, roughshod, lawless, inflected by Shakespeare and Tennyson and King James but also by agricultural gazetteers and frilly old Christian pamphlets, by archaic dictionaries of phrase and fable, by the voices of mule drivers and lady newspaper poets and hanging judges and hellfire preachers.

 

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