Thursday, December 03, 2009

True Grit News

As my long-time readers know, True Grit is one of my favorite novels, so much so that I kind of strong-armed the English department here into using it as the department-wide text next semester (we're doing one of those everyone-reads-the-same-book deals).  I had been using the book in my ENGL 1213 class, which requires a novel; when the department floated the idea of everyone reading the same book, I coaxed and badgered and wheedled until they gave in (not just to shut me up, I'm sure) and chose True Grit.

It's a perfect choice for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that it's an excellent book, and set in the area.  Also, of course, Charles Portis was not just born in Arkansas, but still lives here.  This is useful for pointing out to our students (Look -- you too can etc).

Also, the novel is written not in 19th century British dialect (as some of the novels & plays I had been trying to teach were), but in 19th century Arkansas dialect, which really isn't very different from 21st century Arkansas dialect: that is, many of my students still talk this way.  Whenever some student demands to know, in outrage, what this bit of dialect is supposed to mean ("I've had my bait of this," Mattie says at one point, for instance), half the class erupts in reply ("You've never heard that?" they demand.  "We say that over in Paris all the time!")

Also, it's got a fast-driving plot; also, it's filled with plenty to discuss -- gender, class-issues, race issues, parallels between the Civil War and the Viet Nam war, justice & revenge -- also, there's the movie, the John Wayne movie: AND! NOW!

The Coen brothers are making what can't help but be a better version of the movie.

They've got Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges, and Josh Brolin, and are casting for Mattie in Memphis this weekend.  Plus, they're planning to stick closer to the actual book.  That previous movie makes steam come from my ears -- it's like a radio playing just off the station, the way it keeps just not quite getting things right.  Grr.

So I'm getting my hopes up.

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