Kemper's Reviews > True Grit

True Grit by Charles Portis
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's review
Dec 28, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: western, favorites, rubbermaid-treasure
Read from December 27 to 28, 2010

Treasure of the Rubbermaids: The Dude Vs. The Duke

Sometimes you get very clear signs that you should read or re-read a specific book. Earlier this year, my friend Nancy had read True Grit and recommended it to me. I’d seen the John Wayne movie version a couple of times, and I had a hazy memory that I’d read it at some point. The more I thought about it, I was pretty sure that I’d even owned a very old copy of the book once upon a time.

Months later, I heard that the Coen brothers were doing a new movie version with Jeff Bridges taking John Wayne’s place as Rooster. I’m not a fan of the recent wave of remakes Hollywood has produced since the movie studios are too gutless to risk money on new concepts anymore, but with the Coen brothers saying that they were doing another adaptation of the book, not a remake of the original film, I thought it had potential. Hell, you’ve got The Dude replacing The Duke. I thought it’d be worth seeing just for that alone.

Meanwhile, my father made good on a threat he’d been making since the wife and I bought our first house last year and brought down 14 large plastic containers filled with books and comics that I’d kept at my parents due to lack of storage during my apartment dwelling years.

So the new movie version of True Grit came out and was getting rave reviews, and I wanted to see it. I also wanted to re-read the book at some point. The other day, I started going through the boxes and in the first one I popped open, there sat a battered old hardback of True Grit.

Verily, the Reading Gods had delivered unto me a sign.

After going and seeing the movie yesterday and enjoying it immensely, I cracked open the book last night and rediscovered a story written in what certainly feels like authentic Old West speech. The tale of young Maddie Ross hiring a drunken, one-eyed U.S. Marshal to track and arrest her father’s killer is one of those books told in a such a simple style that it can trick you into missing how much there is between the lines.

Told in first person from the whip-smart but extremely headstrong, stubborn and uptight Maddie, the portrait of the time and people like Rooster and the Texas Ranger LaBoeuf and Lucky Ned Pepper feel like you’re reading a story written back then and not in 1969. It’s funny, bittersweet and loaded with all the action on horseback that any western fan could ask for.

If all you know of this story is the cheesy memories of the old John Wayne version, then check this book out and go see the new version. You won’t be disappointed.
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Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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message 1: by Sandi (new)

Sandi I saw the movie on Sunday and thought it was amazing. We have the book and I'll hopefully get tot read it soon.

Stephanie Coen brothers rock!

message 3: by Chip (new)

Chip Thoughts on which I should do first - see the movie or read the book? (Very strange question for me to ask, as usually I read the book, only, but I've heard rave reviews about the new flick and so am probably going to go see it.) I'm guessing book then move, but thought I'd ask.

Kemper Usually, I try to read the book first, but in this case, the movie version is good enough and close enough to the book that there's no downside which ever way you go with it.

Nancy I can't wait to see the movie! Great review.

Stacey I'm glad to hear there's no recommended order for book vs. movie.

message 7: by Nathan (new)

Nathan Don't diss the Duke.

Kemper Nathan wrote: "Don't diss the Duke."

The Duke is ripe for dissing if one is so inclined but I wasn't so much bagging on him as that the orignal True Grit hasn't aged particularly well. But it was one of Wayne's better roles. (Even if he had to wear a girdle during flming.) Sorry. Couldn't resist..

Lorraine Loved your comment of The Dude replacing The Duke.

I've seen the new version of the movie and loved it and have the book on order at the library. Thanks for your excellent review.

Leslie seemed like the original movie was a vehicle for the Duke. He was certainly no fan of extensive dialogue, so the book got lost. Good movie though. The Coen brothers made a movie of the book, pure and simple. Still smiling a week later. my review of book:

Stephanie I saw the movie. Loved it!

That young actress has a bright future.

Leslie maybe Hallie S. could play Katniss in the Hunger Games

Stephanie Leslie wrote: "maybe Hallie S. could play Katniss in the Hunger Games"

Good pick!

Amanda Leslie wrote: "maybe Hallie S. could play Katniss in the Hunger Games"

I second that! They're going to have a tough time casting Katniss as so many actors in her age group are little sexpots that couldn't convincingly pull off the character, but I think you've just nominated the perfect choice--someone who can act and make us believe she's a tough-as-nails tomboy.

Stephanie Someone where I work came up with the term "prosti-tot" for just such young ladies. Ha!

Yeah, that's the best pick for Katnis I've heard yet!

message 16: by Dave (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dave Christian When I heard the Coen Brothers were remaking this movie, I thought "how ridiculous." Then I saw it was so impressed I had to read the book. Now, I can't watch the John Wayne version without groaning.

Kemper Marc wrote: "Wayne was a far better Rooster than Bridges but I'll take Matt Damon's Texas Ranger over Glenn Campbell any day. If you could have The Duke and Damon in the same film then that would be perfect"

Knowing that the Duke was wearing a girdle and riding a saddle pulled on a trailer during many of his close-up scenes makes me prefer the Jeff Bridges version of Rooster.

Stephanie Kemper wrote: "Knowing that the Duke was wearing a girdle and riding a saddle pulled on a trailer during many of his close-up scenes makes me prefer the Jeff Bridges version of Rooster...."

+1. That doesn't sound comfortable.

Kemper I'm being a smart ass about Wayne wearing a girdle and riding a trailer rather than a horse, but seriously, I did find his performance in that one pretty hammy and prefer the Bridges version. Wayne was essentially playing the same thing he usually did, just with an eye patch and drunk. Bridges was doing something I'd never seen him do before that seemed closer in spirit to the book so he's my preference.

Very cool that you worked on the movie and good to hear that Bridges is a nice guy.

Kemper Marc wrote: "Wayne did win in an Oscar but it was more for a body of work. "The Searchers" was his best performance. You just cant compare an average 1960's director to the great Cohen brothers. I mean they are..."

I read somewhere that even Wayne didn't think he deserved the Oscar for True Grit although he certainly never gave it back. And I agree that The Searchers is probably his best work.

Hope you enjoy the book as much I did.

message 21: by Leslie (last edited Oct 11, 2014 09:00AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Leslie Marc wrote: "Just finished the novel and it is superior to both versions of the film. Why in the World did the Wayne version kill off Lebouf?"

The novel is a master work, in the literary sense. I think the Wayne film version was about him, not about the story told in the book. By that time in his life, his name on the marquee was all they needed. You are right, The Searchers is the one I keep in my mind of the Duke. But for the story itself, I think of the book.

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