Oxford American Press Release - 50 Years of True Grit Celebration in April 2018 - Arkansas Free Press
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Oxford American Press Release - 50 Years of True Grit Celebration in April 2018 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ryan Harris   

August 23, 2017-Little Rock, Arkansas-The Oxford American magazine is planning a series of events, "50 Years of True Grit," over the weekend of April 20-21, 2018, to celebrate the anniversary of the publication of the beloved novel by Charles Portis, one of the magazine's most acclaimed contributors.

The festivities, to take place in Little Rock (including at CALS Ron Robinson Theater) and Fort Smith, Arkansas, will include panel discussions, readings, tours, museum exhibits, film screenings, and a special Saturday-night variety show, featuring comedy, music by Portis's fellow Arkansas native Iris DeMent, and appearances and performances by the book's notable fans. Those interested in attending can find updates to the lineup of events and information about tickets at www.oxfordamerican.org/TG50.

Published by Simon & Schuster in 1968 (after it was first serialized in the Saturday Evening Post), True Grit earned immediate popularity and critical praise as a rousing frontier adventure tale in which fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross seeks to avenge her father's murder with the aid of a down-at-the-heels federal marshal named Rooster Cogburn. Over the past half-century, readers of all ages have come to treasure the book as a classic of American literature. The book has inspired two award-winning films-the 1969 version, which earned John Wayne his sole Academy Award, and the 2010 remake by Joel and Ethan Coen starring Hailee Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges.

"So few books stand the test of time but True Grit's literary reputation and its popularity have only grown in fifty years," said Jay Jennings, a senior editor at the Oxford American and editor of the collection Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany. "We thought the book's landmark anniversary deserved a big celebration in the state that is the setting for much of the book and the home of both the author and the magazine." Portis has published a number of humor pieces in the Oxford American and in 2010 was awarded the magazine's inaugural prize for Lifetime Achievement in Southern Literature. 

Among the many writers who have hailed True Grit as a touchstone of American storytelling are the following:

"Mattie's voice, wry and sure, is one of the great creations of modern American fiction. I put it up there with Huck Finn's, and that is not hyperbole." 
-George Pelacanos, crime novelist and TV writer (The Wire), on NPR

"[T]here are the books we love so much that we read them every year or two, and know passages of them by heart; that cheer us when we are sick or sad and never fail to amuse us when we take them up at random; that we press on all our friends and acquaintances; and to which we return again and again with undimmed enthusiasm over the course of a lifetime. I think it goes without saying that most books that engage readers on this very high level are masterpieces; and this is why I believe that True Grit by Charles Portis is a masterpiece.

-Donna Tartt, author of The Goldfinch and the voice of the True Grit audiobook, in an afterword to a recent edition of True Grit

"I love [True Grit] so much, and the thought that I was going to get to reread it made me happy. And now that I actually am rereading it, it's just such a pleasure."

-Michael Chabon, author of The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, in the Globe and Mail (Toronto)

Oxford American is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization and national magazine dedicated to featuring the very best in Southern writing, while documenting the complexity and vitality of the American South. The Oxford American is committed to the development of young individuals aspiring to work in the publishing industry and to the production and presentation of multidisciplinary arts events in and around Little Rock, Arkansas. Billed as "A Magazine of the South," it has won four National Magazine Awards-including the 2016 Award for General Excellence in the category of Literature, Science and Politics-and other high honors since it began publication in 1992. The magazine has featured the original work of such literary powerhouses as Charles Portis, Roy Blount, Jr., ZZ Packer, Donald Harington, Donna Tartt, Ernest J. Gaines, and many other distinguished authors, while also discovering and launching the most promising writers in the region. 

The magazine has also published previously unseen work by such Southern masters as William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Walker Percy, James Agee, Zora Neale Hurston, James Dickey, and Carson McCullers, to name just a handful. In 2007, The New York Times stated that the Oxford American "may be the liveliest literary magazine in America." The Oxford American is published from the University of Central Arkansas. For more information, visit OxfordAmerican.org.

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