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Gringos and Gnomons

Does Charles Portis belong in the Library of America? Yes.

On the set of True Grit

Charles Portis: Collected Works, by Charles Portis, ed. Jay Jennings, Library of America, 1216 pages

Does Charles Portis belong in the Library of America? Yes. One word: diversity. How many other writers in the LOA were born and bred in Arkansas and spent most of a long life there? He also offers what might be called virtuosic neurodiversity. Open any one of Portis’s five novels at random and you will find all manner of information about cars, trucks, firearms, and such, knowledge dispensed not with the pride of the initiate as in Hemingway but matter-of-factly. In his novel Gringos, for instance: “The Olmecs didn’t like to show their art around either. They buried it twenty-five feet deep and came back with spades to check up on it every ten years or so, to make sure it was still there, unviolated.” See, if you’re interested, Claudia Brittenham’s Unseen Art: Making, Vision, and Power in Ancient Mesoamerica, just published by University of Texas Press and written in a very different idiom.


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