Saturday, January 06, 2007

Book Review -- Sort Of

Driving back from New Orleans, we listened to Donna Tartt reading True Grit, enjoying it immensely, can I just put that first? True Grit has been one of my favorite books, and one of mr. delagar's favorite books, too, for years. Long before we ended up living in Pork Smith. mr. delagar likes the movie, and I can put up with it, though long stretches of it irk me because they aren't the book.

Where was I?

Okay -- so we listened to the book on CD coming back from New Orleans and now the kid is reading it, and she took the bookjacket off, as she always does (we have an old hardcopy bought out of some used bookstore somewhere) and she was reading the blurbs on the back. "Huckleberry Finn," she said. "How is Mattie like Huckleberry Finn?"

"Ha," mr. delagar. "Huckleberry Finn my ass. Captain Ahab more like."

Which led to a 30 minute critical theory rant, which is why the kid has learned not to ask literary questions in *our* house, but to get to the point of this post, near the end of the rant, mr. delagar claimed that Mattie had "burned her life down," in her quest for vengeance.

Now while I agreed that she was as single-minded as Ahab in her determination, I could not see this. How do you figure, I asked.

Did she ever marry? he responded.

Well, good shit, I said, you fucking member of the patriarchy, are you kidding me? Are you messing? Are you telling me if a woman doesn't marry and breed her life is pointless? Is that what you're saying?

No, but --

No, but that's what you're saying. She built her bank. She owns all that land. She has a good life -- she tells us so herself. But you know better? Why?

What kind of a life is that?

The one she wanted?

But I don't blame him entirely. I think Charles Portis also inclines us to see Mattie as broken -- despite the fact that she and Rooster are essentially alike. He wouldn't have crippled her if he didn't want her read that way.

Nevertheless, I never did read her that way. I *liked* that ending. I *liked* that she did not marry, that she made her own life, that she didn't settle down and give in, that to the very last paragraph she was still a tough chick. ("Keep your seat, trash!" she says to Frank James.) It was nearly the only book in my childhood *with* such a tough chick in it. Even Francie, in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, even Laura, they give in as they grow up. Not Mattie.

So I was a little annoyed to have mr. delagar reading this as broken, let me tell you.

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