Charles Portis did something that few of us have the stones to do. He gave up a well paying job as a journalist and left the city to move to a cabin and write the great American novel.
A few months back when I heard the news of the Coen brothers remake of True Grit, it was exciting. Mostly because — unlike the 1969 version starring John Wayne — the new True Grit would very closely follow the original Portis story. In fact, Ethan and Joel Coen instructed Matt Damon not to watch the original film, they told him to read the book. And the book is truly great.
I can identify with what Portis did by giving up his job and life in the city by moving back home (to Arkansas) to follow his true passion. It is at least a feeling I can appreciate. It takes a lot of guts and the fact of the matter, change is almost always difficult.
Both True Grit and Charles Portis’ first novel Norwood both became popular movies. John Wayne ended up winning an Oscar for his role as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, which is the same thing I can see happening to Jeff Bridges, who is magnificent in the role. But the real star here is the story. If you haven’t read the book, I suggest you do so. Going to see the new True Grit after having read the book made it all that much more enjoyable. The Coens executed the film perfectly, in my opinion. Even Jason Bourne, er, Matt Damon was surprisingly great. I say surprisingly because, prior to this, I couldn’t see Damon as much of a Western guy. But Matt Damon is terrific, as is the whole cast.
All that said, none of it could come close to being as great as the book. I suggest you own it and read it.
Not sure if you heard, but the follow-up to The Official Preppy Handbook —titled True Prep— is out today. When I first learned of the new book I instinctively cringed. Not to be pessimistic, but I just couldn’t see how anything could be as good as the original. Sort of like Wall Street II; the original is a classic and cannot be recreated. So why even try? Then one day this past spring I got invited to a press luncheon at Michael’s (a fancy N.Y. restaurant favored by media bigwigs) for the upcoming release of True Prep and needless to say I was intrigued. But before I tell you about that let’s talk about the original, The Official Preppy Handbook.
This past weekend I finished reading Sebastian Junger’s new book War — which along with the accompanying documentary Restrepo (directed by both Junger and photojournalist Tim Hetherington) — documents one U.S. Army platoon’s entire 15 month deployment to Afghanistan’s Korangal valley, one of the most dangerous places in the world. Rather than focusing on the politics of the War in Afghanistan, both War and Restrepo center on the soldiers on the front lines. The book and film are a sobering look at the everyday GIs that are out there in the shit; dividing their mountainous existence between boredom, firefights, reinforcing their post and dealing with the local Afghans. I highly recommend both the book and the film, which each provide a poignant perspective on the war in Afghanistan, and at the same time manage to avoid the pitfalls of the typical modern war documentary. [Restrepo / War]
Another book I need to buy from Taschen is Roadside America by John Margolies. Similar in style to Los Angeles, and very obviously my type of vibe, the book covers everything from “main Street signs, movie theaters, gas stations, fast food restaurants, motels, roadside attractions, miniature golf courses, dinosaurs, giant figures and animals, and fantasy coastal resorts.” You know who else would love this book? Mr. Aaron Draplin.
Some great imagery from Roadside America is below. Enjoy.
The Taschen New York store is directly across the street from my office and sometimes when I need to clear my head I’ll trot over there to flip through some of their beautiful books and drift off into another world. After I posted the old Kodachromes of L.A., a few people pointed me in the direction of Los Angeles, Portrait of a City and I was immediately sucked in to the amazing photography of an amazing city.
The Trad in his infinite knowledge of interesting things points us to one of the most entertaining reads the Sunday Book Review has ever offered up. The gem of an essay is on Minnesota native and epic hook and bullet purveyor George Herter. The titles of Herter’s books alone make me love the guy. The archive includes: “How to Get Out of the Rat Race and Live on $10 a Month,” the popular “Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices” and my personal favorite “How to Live With a Bitch.”