Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Charles Portis

I felt a visceral twinge of pain, lungs maybe, and I sat down on the bed to wait for it to pass.  The pain was concentrated in one burning spot about the size of a dime.  I wondered if I might have been hit by a small stray bullet sometime during the afternoon.  I had handled news accounts of men who had been shot and then walked about for hours, days, a lifetime, unaware of such wounds.
From his 1979 novel, Dog of the South.  The reclusive Portis, who was born on this date in 1933, is as deadpan as a novelist as there is.  He is best known for his 1968 novel, True Grit, which has been adapted for the movies twice.

Portis learned to write as a reporter for the University of Arkansas student newspaper and the Northwest Arkansas Times.  He worked in both New York City and London for the legendary New York Herald-Tribune before leaving journalism in 1964 to write novels.

Portis grew up in El Dorado, Arkansas, which is also the home of Baseball Hall of Famer Lou Brock, Country Music Hall of Famer Lefty Frizzell, and Pro Football Hall of Famer Lamar Hunt (who was one of the founders of the old American Football League and owner of the Kansas City Chiefs).

I spent part of August 9, 1974 -- the day that Richard Nixon resigned as President of the United States -- in El Dorado, trying to get my overheating 1970 Olds Cutlass fixed.  After having the coolant/antifreeze drained and replaced, the radiator cap replaced, and the thermostat replaced, it was determined that the problem was just a faulty temperature sensor -- my engine wasn't really overheating at all.  

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