National Endowment for the Arts - The Big Read
True Grit

True Grit

by Charles Portis

I have never been one to flinch or crawfish when faced with an unpleasant task.


The Life and Times of Charles Portis

  1. 1870s
    • 1872: Mark Twain publishes Roughing It.
    • 1875: Judge Isaac Parker, the "Hanging Judge," oversees the first of 79 executions during his tenure in the U.S. Court for the Western District of Arkansas.
    • 1876: George Armstrong Custer's troops routed by Lakota and Cheyenne fighters on the Little Bighorn River in Custer's Last Stand.
  2. 1880s–1890s
    • 1882: Jesse James shot and killed.
    • 1889: President Benjamin Harrison authorizes claims on Indian Territory land for white settlement.
    • 1890: Buffalo population on the Western plains reduced from 30 million to fewer than one thousand.
  3. 1900s–1910s
    • 1902: Owen Wister publishes The Virginian, a novel romanticizing 1870s cowboy life in Wyoming cattle country.
    • Oklahoma enters the Union in 1907; Arizona and New Mexico follow in 1912.
  4. 1920s–1930s
    • 1933: Charles Portis born in south Arkansas.
    • 1939: John Ford directs Stagecoach, his first Western to use sound, starring John Wayne.
  5. 1940s–1950s
    • 1946: Portis's great–grandfather Alexander Waddell, who fought for the South in the Civil War, dies at age 99.
    • 1953: Shane, starring Alan Ladd as a taciturn gunslinger, released.
    • 1958: Portis serves as a Marine in the Korean War, graduates from the University of Arkansas with a degree in journalism.
  6. 1960s
    • 1964: Portis works for the New York Herald Tribune, rising to London bureau chief.
    • 1968: True Grit published, after being serialized in the Saturday Evening Post.
    • 1969: John Wayne stars in the film version of True Grit, for which he receives his only Oscar.
  7. 1970s–1990s
    • 1992: Unforgiven, a Western starring and directed by Clint Eastwood, wins four Oscars, including Best Picture.
    • 1998: Esquire magazine essay on Portis inspires The Overlook Press to reissue Portis's out–of–print novels.
  8. 2000s
    • 2010: The Coen brothers' version of True Grit released.
    • 2012: Two decades after Portis's last novel, Escape Velocity published.
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