The comedian George Carlin had a routine, in the 1970s, in which he offered up a series of fake headlines in a blustery newscaster’s voice. “A man has barricaded himself inside of his house,” one opens. After a beat: “However, he is not armed, and no one is paying any attention to him.” I always think of that line whenever a famous novelist is praised for their reluctance to appear—for a refusal to give interviews, participate in public forums, be photographed for dust jackets, and so forth. A precious few have managed this inside-out publicity somersault: Thomas Pynchon, Harper Lee, J.D. Salinger, Donna Tartt, Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy. (Granted, varied circumstances and temperaments lie behind their Bartleby routines.) On the whole, though, it’s rare that a writer is rewarded for squirrelliness in the face of publicity opportunities.

Charles Portis is anomalous, a writer force-fielded in a durable glamour of obscurity and frequently championed for revival—“America’s most remembered forgotten novelist,” as the writer Mark Dunbar quipped. Portis’s diffidence about publicity rhymed with the self-effacing air of the novels, so richly aphoristic, rueful, and proportionate. Pigeonholed as a humorist, Portis eluded prize nominations, and his novels fell in and out of print; not one of the five, published between 1966 and 1991, was reviewed in these pages. Yet he has lately shrugged his way into the Library of America, ahead of such seriously regarded contemporaries as James Salter, Evan S. Connell, Russell Banks, and Norman Rush. (I’ve picked white guys to make this comparison vivid, not because I can’t think of other-than-white-guys who deserve celebration.)

In this sense Portis’s enshrinement by the Library of America is more of a piece with its recent embrace of twentieth-century writers who in their own time had been marginalized within genres: Shirley Jackson (horror), Elmore Leonard (crime), Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip K. Dick, and Joanna Russ (science fiction). It was among science fiction writers that I first heard Portis regularly cited as a standard of value, particularly in the circle around the beloved writer and editor Gardner Dozois, who died in 2018, though only one of Portis’s novels comes remotely close to sci-fi.1

Jay Jennings, the editor of this new edition, warmed up for the effort with 2012’s Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany, while Portis was still alive. Functioning as both a rarities volume and a festschrift, the Miscellany gathered uncollected writings, including early journalism and late stories (which make it into the LOA book) and a play (which doesn’t) together with several of the essays calling for a Portis renaissance by admirers like Roy Blount Jr., Ron Rosenbaum, Ed Park, Wells Tower, and Donna Tartt. Those efforts were influential: Rosenbaum’s 1998 Esquire essay helped drag the novels back into trade paperback. Park’s survey of the whole Portis landscape, published in The Believer in 2003, built on Rosenbaum’s effort, alerting a younger generation of readers to Portis’s work.2 At his death in 2020 came another burst of tributes.

Now comes the University of Arkansas English professor Robert Cochran’s Haunted Man’s Report: Reading Charles Portis, a loose portrait of Portis’s life and times wrapped around a study of the work. Cochran repudiates “tedious anatomizing” and promises instead “as ‘Portishead’ a volume as possible—this is the aim. Appreciation, a fan’s notes. Of a wiseacre sort.” For all the disclaimers, Cochran’s volume gathers a great deal of scrupulous research, and even some portion of psycho-biographical speculation, into a persuasive close reading of five novels, plus journalism, a short story, and Portis’s single stage play. Cochran brings to light both the sidelong historical ruminations and the sorrowful depths of feeling that admirers have always sensed moving beneath the picaresque plots and the insouciant breezes of Portis’s prose.

Portis, if he ever tipped his hand, seemed only to care that his books be delightful. They are. Yet what if they also sustain all the claims nervously advanced on their behalf, the comparisons to Twain, Dante, Nabokov, Gogol? TV cameras remain camped out in the front yard of the man barricaded inside his house.

Charles Portis belonged to Arkansas. He’d lived elsewhere during the first third of his life, as a marine in the Korean War, as a newspaperman in the South (where he did vital reporting from the front line of resistance to the civil rights movement) and New York, and as a bureau chief for The New York Herald Tribune in London. But Arkansas was where in 1965 he did his barricading, which persisted nearly uninterrupted until his death. A beloved, even talismanic figure to his neighbors, the shy author was dragged out of the house to accept the first ever award for Lifetime Achievement in Southern Literature, given in 2010 by the Oxford American (which, despite its name, has for the past two decades been housed in Arkansas, under the auspices of the University of Central Arkansas). Yet he seems other than clearly a “southern writer,” in the typically understood sense of that regional genre—the sense that defines the tradition of Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Walker Percy, and Harry Crews. Southern writing, in that formulation, is rooted in legacies of place, engaged with agrarian or small-town pastoral yearning even if turned against itself in remorse or accusation, or rendered bleakly grotesque.


Portis’s characters, by contrast, are defined by journeys, even if many of their journeys turn out to be circular. His tales are set in Mexico, Belize, Texas, Indiana, New York City, and, yes, passingly, Arkansas. Yet fundamentally it is in the wild or on the road that his people discover their purposes. Portis’s temperament, when it locates a version of home, remains untethered and provisional: an RV makes a pretty good house; a few RVs circled together might make the best sort of small town. Despite his deep reservations about utopian projects, the families and alliances that give consolation, at road’s end, are constructed rather than inherited ones, made out of recognitions and sympathies across type, nationality, and even species (see under: horses; chickens).

Portis was a perfectionist in his chosen style. His standard is precision and ease in recording the telling detail and transcribing the off-kilter cadence of his characters’ speech. His signature quirk is abrupt outbursts of sentence fragments punctuated with exclamation points, like hail on a tin roof. A distinctive method! Surprising in its appeal! And weirdly infectious! Everywhere Portis is lucid and engaging; he’s digressive without ever sowing confusion. His sense of the absurd exhibits itself in macro and micro levels, embedded in story, chapter, paragraph, and sentence. Like the cartoon about the scientists who examine dogs under the microscope only to find that they consist of other, tinier dogs, Portis’s humor inhabits the smallest measurable unit. Each word in a Portis sentence seems amused to have been placed beside its neighbor.

Portis isn’t much for “plot.” With the exception of True Grit, he traffics in something that might be called permanent in medias res. The four other novels are concatenations of happenstance, hovering, stalling, and then, sometimes, precipitous outcomes. Yet Portis remains on point going nowhere in particular, driven by his fixity of attention to how the world declines to make sense. If he has a master plot it is one of deflation—a leaky narrative tire accompanied by the dissipation of conventional expectations. He’s the Grand Poobah of the antigrandiose, the Senior Warden in the Lodge of the Shaggy Dog.

There’s also a macroplot in Portis’s oeuvre, an elegant alternation, though as cryptic as a code: books one (Norwood), three (The Dog of the South), and five (Gringos) are male-driven road movies; books two (True Grit) and four (Masters of Atlantis) both unrepeatable tours de force. To learn anything useful, better turn to the five, like fingers on a hand, in their particulars.

The debut, Norwood (1966), is his slightest, yet with that signature irreducibility that makes paraphrase feel futile. The title character is a marine released to his East Texas hometown on a hardship discharge to tend his delicate sister after their father’s death. Norwood Pratt is also a wannabe country singer whose possession of musical gifts and overall perspective on his misadventures remain elusive to the reader. What’s unmistakable, however, is Norwood’s sweet sincerity and his boyish curiosity about others. After his sister marries, Norwood heads to New York City to collect a small debt owed him by a fellow marine. This microscopic plot hook drops on page one:

Norwood took his discharge, which he felt to be shameful, and boarded a bus in Oceanside that was bound for his home town of Ralph, Texas—with, of course, many intermediate stops. The big red-and-yellow cruiser had not gone far when Norwood remembered with a sinking heart that in all the confusion of checking out he had forgotten to go by Tent Camp 1 and pick up the seventy dollars that Joe William Reese owed him. This was a measure of his distress. It was not like Norwood to forget money.

This leads in turn to the first of the great Portis non sequiturs:

Thinking about it, on top of this discharge business, sent Norwood further into depression. He decided he would sit up straight all the way home and not look at the sights and not sleep and not push the Recline-o button and not lean back thirty or forty degrees the way he had planned.

It is that near horizon of his plans—to push the Recline-o button—in which the precision of Portis’s absurdism lurks.


Once in New York, Norwood becomes a wise-fool hick in the city, akin to Joe Buck from Midnight Cowboy. That novel had appeared in 1965, the year before Norwood (the movie came out in 1969). This motif was popular in the late 1960s, other examples being the Don Siegel–directed Clint Eastwood vehicle Coogan’s Bluff (1968) and the television series McCloud (1970–1977), where a country lawman is shown outwitting idiot New Yorkers on a routine basis. By bringing his guileless protagonist to the city, Portis—who’d in his journalistic career lived in Manhattan and even briefly dated Nora Ephron—might be seen as measuring his distance from a cosmopolitan knowingness in which he’d dabbled.

The way Norwood alternates gullibility and ethical doggedness might nowadays be associated with being “on the spectrum.” This aligns him with another kind of literary character in vogue at the time: Jerzy Kosinski’s Chauncey Gardiner, from Being There; Thomas Berger’s everyman Carlo Reinhart (like Norwood, a returning veteran); Yossarian from Joseph Heller’s Catch-22; even Slothrop from Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. In their dampened or bemused affect, these protagonists become a rebuke to the cravenness and posturing that swirls around them—surrogates for readers who may find contemporary life a little much without having any way to quit the scene.

Two years after Norwood, Portis entered immortality with True Grit, the tale of a girl named Mattie Ross who enlists an alcoholic mercenary US marshal named Rooster Cogburn to avenge the death of her father. The title and image of the story have become lodged in our cultural lexicon. The book possesses a friezelike, mythopoetic density that might seem to emanate from a distant past—it takes place in 1878—yet it is narrated by Mattie fifty years later in an adamant, precise vernacular, one that often reminds readers of the pleasures of Twain. The book spent almost half a year on the New York Times best-seller list, which sets Portis apart not only from other “cult novelists” but from most novelists of any kind. It was filmed twice; the anodyne 1969 version, directed by Henry Hathaway, was a sentimental hit that earned John Wayne his only Oscar. The second, directed in 2010 by Joel and Ethan Coen, returns devotionally to details the earlier film had abandoned. It also returned the paperback to the Times best-seller list and dragged Portis back into a semigrateful spotlight ten years before his death.

While for some the literary western finds its apotheosis twenty years later in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, for me Portis offers twice the value in senseless frontier violence without the concomitant price in Old Testament maunderings. In the most startling scene, Mattie and Rooster Cogburn capture two of the primary villain’s wounded accomplices in a dugout shed. These minor characters, bearing the Beckettian names Quincy and Moon, are dim-witted, amoral clowns. In playing them against each other, Cogburn inadvertently sets off a hiccup of riotous nihilism:

Rooster said, “Moon is coming around. A young fellow like him don’t want to lose his leg. He is too young to be getting about on a willow peg. He loves dancing and sport.”

“You are trying to get at me,” said Moon.

“I am getting at you with the truth,” said Rooster.

In a few minutes Moon leaned over to whisper a confidence into Quincy’s ear. “None of that,” said Rooster, raising his rifle. “If you have anything on your mind we will all hear it.”

Moon said, “We seen Ned and Haze just two days ago.”

“Don’t act the fool!” said Quincy. “If you blow I will kill you.”

But Moon went on. “I am played out,” said he. “I must have a doctor. I will tell what I know.”

With that, Quincy brought the bowie knife down on Moon’s cuffed hand and chopped off four fingers which flew up before my eyes like chips from a log. Moon screamed and a rifle ball shattered the lantern in front of me and struck Quincy in the neck, causing hot blood to spurt on my face. My thought was: I am better out of this. I tumbled backward from the bench and sought a place of safety on the dirt floor…. Quincy was insensible and dead or dying and Moon was bleeding terribly from his hand and from a mortal puncture in the breast that Quincy gave him before they fell.

“Oh Lord, I am dying!” said he.

I admire this sequence even more than True Grit’s epic finale, involving Mattie and the villain Ned Pepper in a pit full of poisonous snakes, though that’s pretty good, too. This would be the one time Portis delivered the whole goods, rather than deflating his plot’s culminating scenes. In fulfilling the terms of its adventure, True Grit is its author’s least characteristic work. Portis didn’t publish a novel again for eleven years. It would seem that he spent some of the time and some of the dough road-tripping in Central America.

The Portis we fully recognize from his present veneration arrives in 1979. The first of what will be three novels that wander to international settings, The Dog of the South is also where Portis unveils an interest in conspiracy and revelation, and in arcane and suppressed texts—though, as usual, through an atmosphere of distraction and amusement. The non- or antiplot is narrated by one Ray Midge, who announces in the book’s first line that his “wife Norma had run off with Guy Dupree”—along with his automobile and credit card—and that he plans to stalk the couple by the trail of receipts. The circumstances are intricate—Dupree is Norma’s ex and Midge’s frenemy at the newspaper where they’ve both worked—while Midge boasts a distractibility and a flatness that verge on dissociative disorder. He hits the road, in a pursuit that leads through Mexico to Belize, and to confrontations with Norma and Dupree. Yet Midge shows little interest in conventional vengeance; he seems to lavish more sensory and emotional attention on the functioning of a series of vehicles than on his wife or rival.

The precision of Midge’s attention, combined with the opacity of his priorities, generates the hilarity. The folksy voice of Portis’s first two novels here expands to incorporate a constant flow of goofy-erudite verbal prestidigitations, making Midge’s narration evocative of early Thomas McGuane, or even Richard Brautigan or Terry Southern—a 1970s vibe one might call stonerish if it were anyone but Portis, whose distaste for hippie culture feels so absolute as to be a principle. The laid-back humor now comes at such a pace that the reader can’t, in fact, lay back for a second. This creates a strange effect of loose density or lackadaisical sadistic tickling:

I learned that he had been dwelling in the shadows for several years. He had sold hi-lo shag carpet remnants and velvet paintings from the back of a truck in California. He had sold wide shoes by mail, shoes that must have been almost round, at widths up to EEEEEE. He had sold gladiola bulbs and vitamins for men and fat-melting pills and all-purpose hooks and hail-damaged pears.

Midge is describing Dr. Reo Symes, the owner of a broken-down camper bus who hijacks both Midge’s road trip and the book in chapter three. Symes is a great comic creation, a supremely American huckster who might be an outtake from Melville’s The Confidence-Man, and whose speculative interests include hopes of bilking his mother out of the zoning rights to an island on which he plans to develop a luxury retirement home—or, alternately, “How about a theme park? Jefferson Davis Land. It’s not far from the old Davis plantation…”

Along with his own bad ideas, Symes carries with him a secret source of bogus thinking. To quote Elizabeth Nelson, “Although he appears only in the marvelously unhinged ramblings of Dr. Symes, John Selmer Dix may be Portis’s most crucial creation, the skeleton key that unlocks the trunk of the author’s imagination.” Dix is the fictional author of With Wings as Eagles, a treasured, tattered book that Symes claims “puts William Shakespeare in the shithouse,” though when we’re given snippets of this masterwork it appears more the sort of thing Willy Loman might have carted around—aphoristic wisdom for salesmen like “Always Be Closing.” This gives a glimpse of Portis’s dark view of the American character, where the chatter of self-deceiving conmen forms a kind of universal intoxicant to which only the puttering, driveless personality of Midge is immune. The presence of an author of patently idiotic secret books calls to mind Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman, where the ravings of the insane philosopher de Selby provide the MacGuffin for an inane murder plot.

But Jefferson Davis Land? “The treatment of race,” muses Robert Cochran, “may be in the current cultural climate a major obstacle to a wider appreciation of Portis’s fiction generally and of Norwood and The Dog of the South in particular.” Cochran then uneasily tabulates instances of the N-word—there are plenty.3 It’s a conundrum for twenty-first-century Portis boosters, especially any who’d want to place him on a syllabus. Though the word appears in four of the five novels, for me it is The Dog of the South where discomfort ramifies into something more disturbing. Certainly, in the era Portis published the book, that word appeared in popular songs by Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Elvis Costello, as well as in books by white writers who were generally seen to have explicable political or documentary purposes—even if those purposes are no longer viewed as sufficient.4

Portis’s use of the term is more enigmatic, throwing interpretation back into the reader’s lap. The trick maybe isn’t the word itself but rather how it reverberates in a text whose wise-fool narrator makes ambiguous remarks like “I’m white and I don’t dance but that doesn’t mean I have all the answers.” Or consider this passage describing Midge’s uneasiness at night in a crowd in Belize:

I made my way through a sea of boisterous drunks. It was sundown. There would be no twilight at this latitude. The air was sultry and vapors were rising from the ground. The drunks were good-natured for the most part but I didn’t like being jostled, and there was this too, the ancient fear of being overwhelmed and devoured by a tide of dark people. Their ancient dream!

In Haunted Man’s Report, Cochran alertly flags the instability of that final pronoun. “Whose ancient dream?” he writes.

Do light people endure white supremacist nightmares of a “great replacement”?… Or does Midge, by a sharp shift of perspective, ascribe to “dark people” an equally ancient revenge fantasy, a violent if long-delayed retribution for colonialist subjugation? This whole passage is either very adroitly or very clumsily phrased.

Portis may seem to be tonguing a sore tooth. When Ray Midge eventually locates and confronts Dupree in a jungle compound, Cochran compares him to Kurtz in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but Dupree is more a depraved, druggy hipster than a villain. The scene’s squalor recalls Hunter S. Thompson; Portis finds the counterculture as inhospitable as the culture. His sensibility wants to light out for the territory—to save itself, in the words of John Ford’s Stagecoach, “from the blessings of civilization”—but it also suspects there is no viable territory. So it sits at home and grumbles.

The book is Portis’s comic masterpiece, but the riffing bridges an abyss. Midge’s incoherent blend of visionary wit and shrugging obliviousness (has any protagonist of a cherished book ever seemed likelier to be dull if met in real life?) forms a screen for Portis to mull behind—the author having generated implications, in a first-person-narrated contemporary novel in a multicultural setting, that he wasn’t quite ready to sort out.

Masters of Atlantis, Portis’s fourth novel, is a compressed epic account of the conspiracy theories, con jobs, and self-deluding strategies of a fictional secret society called the Gnomons, a cabal of men devoted to exploring and disseminating esoteric teachings about powers shaping world history from behind the curtain. It is at once a vehicle for Portis’s most extended deadpan jest, a fiction so disobedient to conventional notions of character or plot development that it almost qualifies as “experimental,” and his most sorrowful cross-sectional view of delusion and waste in twentieth-century America.

The lead figure, Lamar Jimmerson, has his first brush with secret knowledge as an army corporal in post–World War I Europe, when he is approached by a mysterious man bearing a book called the Codex Pappus, pertaining to the lost continent of Atlantis. The scene is presented in an omniscient voice so direct as to be disconcerting—it takes a moment to adjust to how Portis’s typical attitude trickles through it. Jimmerson will remain a cipher in the book, but his psychological key may be in the book’s first lines: “Young Lamar Jimmerson went to France in 1917…serving first with the Balloon Section, stumbling about in open fields holding one end of a long rope…” France in 1917 is no joke: Could he in fact be a PTSD victim before the term was invented?

Jimmerson’s spaciness might be infuriating, but it’s leavened by his reverence for philosophy, meditation, and writing—even if this reverence is in every case applied to the most vacuous nonsense. Gnomonic wisdom consists of misunderstood shreds of history, geometry, astrology, and self-improvement gobbledygook, the kind of stuff that—if it could fool more than a scattering of gullibles every year—might qualify as a pyramid scheme, or cult, or start-up religion. As Portis portrays it, however, Gnomonism is barely more than a feeble social practice, conducted by such a tiny group of followers over six decades that the novel is able to offer an unforgettable character sketch of each and every convert. Maurice Babcock, for instance,

ordered his shoes from England, his shirts from Baltimore and his small hats from a hat shop in Salt Lake City that catered to the needs of young Mormon missionaries. He wore these hats in a seasonal color sequence, from opalescent gray through black, high on his head and dead level with the horizon…. His introduction to Gnomonism came one Saturday morning when he was poking about in an old bookstore and ran across a cast-off trove of Gnomon pamphlets and books, including a copy of 101 Gnomon Facts, one of the rare, unsigned copies…. This is the stuff for me. He knew it at once. This is what I’ve been looking for. My search for certitudes is over.

The book’s magic is the fluency of its omniscient narration—which is partly to say it stems from the decision to take a wry author surrogate, like Norwood or Midge, off the table. Portis is sympathetic and merciless in equal measure as he shows us how this sub-subculture devotes itself to its feuds and fantasies, how its members enshrine one another in self-published monographs that nobody will ever care to read. As the decades grind on, we see the Gnomons sagging into despondency and dereliction, having never humbled themselves to the perspective age is meant to bestow. In its late stages, the book becomes something like an inside-out Barbara Pym novel—the Gnomon sages come to resemble Pym’s preening clergymen, their vanities propped up behind the scenes by doting, capable women.

Jimmy Burns, the lead and narrator of 1991’s Gringos, an American expat in the Yucatán, a tour guide with a sporadic side hustle in looted antiquities, is Portis’s first middle-aged narrator. The third protagonist in Portis’s odd-numbered novels of men on expeditions, Burns is like Norwood Pratt a Korean War veteran, and carries some of Pratt’s sweet tolerance for human and animal variety; he also doubles down on Ray Midge’s preoccupation with the maintenance of automobiles. Yet Burns is a significant advance on Pratt and Midge, and Gringos an authentic new leaf in Portis’s fiction, because his creator has endowed him with greater competencies, not only in auto repair but in the sublime art of noticing that other human beings exist. Jimmy Burns is an appreciator. He performs routine acts of generosity—though he might call them “errands”—and by the end has become a surprisingly effective action hero, the only such in Portis’s roster, if you put aside True Grit. (How often we have to say this!)

In this, Gringos’s main character is a decisive repudiation of the hapless wind-up-toy men who populate Masters of Atlantis. Then again, in one of those strokes of ambivalence that define Portis, Burns is a functioning element of the muck and bustle around him, and even a creature of the ideology of sales—that Dale Carnegie–Willy Loman hokum that had been sent up so extensively in the two preceding novels. Here he admires the efforts of a friend:

Refugio was a good salesman, a natural closer, and he had the Dutchman right where he wanted him…. Refugio was going for the No. 3 close. This is where you feign indifference to the sale, while at the same time you put across that your patience is at an end, that you are about to withdraw the offer…. The farmer saw that the moment had come. The polyvinyl chloride pipe was as cheap as it was ever going to get. He gave in, with conditions. He would have to inspect the bargain PVC pipe and he wanted the slip couplings and elbow couplings thrown in and he wanted it all delivered. Agreed, said Refugio, but no cattle and no checks.

The point is that the farmer wants the pipe. Burns sees the paradox in sales: in an atmosphere of competence and keen listening, the genuinely competent salesman might offer what you don’t yet know you require. Not everything is a shuck or a scheme. Burns exemplifies an attitude of provisional expertise, of tinkering with everything, including life, until it is at least slightly improved.

Portis’s deepened investment in his character also gains from an enrichment in his character’s surroundings. Presumably the writer had spent more time in Mexico by this point—he’s swapped out his absurdist touches for a depiction with more emotional and sensory information. Best of all, the nonwhite characters have come to life. “The subalterns begin to talk back,” as Cochran notes. “Notably obnoxious gringos occasionally get deported.” Burns is, Cochran says, “that rare gringo who understands he’s not in charge in Mexico.”

Gringos’s plot is several degrees less sublimated than those of Dog or Masters, and more conclusive, too. Burns multitasks: his runs into the jungle to rescue some starving anthropologists double as a chance to scout for a girl kidnapped by a sleazy mystic hippie, who resembles the scary villains in a Robert Stone or Denis Johnson novel. The girl needs rescue, and the hippie needs dispatching, and at some point Burns accepts that he’s the one to do it. When violence comes, it is as quick as a glance and capped with one of Portis’s greatest punch lines: “Shotgun blast or not at close range, I was still surprised at how fast and clean Dan had gone down…. I wasn’t used to seeing my will so little resisted, having been in sales for so long.”

In a book of noticing, first-time readers may or may not have sensed a second plot seeping through the welter of colorful characters: Louise Kurle, an interesting woman who’s been visiting in intermittent scenes, abruptly makes her intentions clear, and delivers to Burns a sweet ultimatum—a sales pitch as admirable as Refugio’s to the Dutch farmer. In the last chapters Burns and Louise marry, a development as natural as it is astonishing. Earlier renditions of Portis’s man-in-car, though they technically engage and marry, have seemed distractible to the point of possible asexuality, and never could have prepared the reader for the reciprocal middle-aged tenderness that overtakes Gringos.

Professor Cochran: “Charles McColl Portis, it was alleged, had produced at least one Great American Novel (claims were advanced for up to three, an amazing feat given he’d written just five).” Let me advance my claim: the three are True Grit, Masters of Atlantis, and Gringos. Portis stuck the landing.