Reviews for Escape Velocity : A Charles Portis Miscellany


Library Journal Reviews 2012 October #1

Widely known for his novel True Grit, Arkansan Charles Portis has attained cult status. Since beginning his career as a journalist for the Memphis Commercial Appeal more than 50 years ago, he has produced an eclectic body of work that includes reporting, travel essays, short stories, memoir, and drama. Much of that writing is collected here. Portis's voice is strongest in the journalism sections, from wry humor in early vignettes on "Southernness," small-town sports, and a half-hearted attempt to stop smoking, to important eyewitness accounts of Civil Rights tumult for the New York Herald Tribune. The eight short fiction and travel essays showcase the author's fascination with history and place, particularly in his native Arkansas on the Ouachita River ("The Forgotten River"); quirky, sometimes poignant first-person characters evoke the work of William Faulkner or Raymond Carver ("I Don't Talk Service No More"). Tributes from writers including Roy Blount Jr. and Donna Tartt round out the volume. Editor Jennings (Carry the Rock), an Arkansas journalist and humorist, offers a biographical introduction. VERDICT Jennings's insightful introduction provides substantive context for the unfamiliar--and, in some cases, unknown--work of an important American writer who has not sought the spotlight. Recommended for general readers--those who already admire Portis and those coming to him for the first time--as well as scholars seeking hard-to-find primary sources.--Patrick A. Smith, Bainbridge Coll., GA

[Page 78]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 December #1

No other writer can so accurately be compared to greats as diverse as Twain, Garcia Marquez, Chaucer and McCarthy. Portis easily lives up to these laurels while remaining his own man, as displayed in the reportage, short fiction and drama assembled here by fellow Arkansan Jennings. Most famed as a novelist, particularly for True Grit and its two hit film adaptations, he also crafts cultural criticism as powerfully understated as contemporary Didion. Even covering subjects that could devolve into kitschâ??Nashville's music scene, Elvis Presley's bedside vigilâ??he displays "deep knowledge worn lightly." A fascination with language that shines through the dialogue in his play Delray's New Moon, printed here for the first time, also produces such treasures in his nonfiction as an etymology of 'bayou.' His self-effacing Civil Rights journalism, meanwhile, effortless registers small, perfect details like young African-American marchers in 1963 Birmingham throwing U.S. flags into the street rather than cede them to arresting police. Portis rarely answers his own questions but does the reader one better, laboring over a far more elusive pleasure: the articulation of the unknown. (Oct.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

No other writer can so accurately be compared to greats as diverse as Twain, Garcia Marquez, Chaucer and McCarthy. Portis easily lives up to these laurels while remaining his own man, as displayed in the reportage, short fiction and drama assembled here by fellow Arkansan Jennings. Most famed as a novelist, particularly for True Grit and its two hit film adaptations, he also crafts cultural criticism as powerfully understated as contemporary Didion. Even covering subjects that could devolve into kitschâ??Nashville's music scene, Elvis Presley's bedside vigilâ??he displays "deep knowledge worn lightly." A fascination with language that shines through the dialogue in his play Delray's New Moon, printed here for the first time, also produces such treasures in his nonfiction as an etymology of 'bayou.' His self-effacing Civil Rights journalism, meanwhile, effortless registers small, perfect details like young African-American marchers in 1963 Birmingham throwing U.S. flags into the street rather than cede them to arresting police. Portis rarely answers his own questions but does the reader one better, laboring over a far more elusive pleasure: the articulation of the unknown. (Oct.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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