A Charles Portis Miscellany
Edited and with an introduction by Jay Jennings
Illustrations by Mike Reddy
who care about literature or simply love a good laugh (or
both), Charles Portis has long been one of America’s
most admired novelists. His 1968 novel True Grit
is fixed in the contemporary canon, and four more have been
hailed as comic masterpieces. Now, for the first time, his
other writings—journalism, travel stories, short fiction,
memoir, and even a play—have been brought together in
Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany, his
first new book in more than twenty years.
familiar Portis elements are here: picaresque adventures,
deadpan humor, an expert eye for detail and keen ear for the
spoken word, and encounters with oddball characters both real
and imagined. The collection encompasses the breadth of his
fifty-year writing career, from his gripping reportage of
the civil rights movement for the New York Herald Tribune
to a comic short story about the demise of journalism in the
twenty-first century. New to even the most ardent fan is his
three-act play, Delray’s New Moon, performed onstage
in 1996 and published here for the first time.
this is your first encounter with the world of Portis or a
long-awaited return to it, you’ll agree with critic
Ron Rosenbaum—whose essay appears here alongside tributes
by other writers—that Portis “will come to be
regarded as the author of classics on the order of a twentieth-century
Mark Twain, a writer who captures the soul of America.”
Portis was born and raised in south Arkansas,
graduating from Hamburg High School. He served in the U.S.
Marine Corps during the Korean War, earned a journalism degree
from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and became
a newspaper reporter. He worked for the Commercial Appeal
in Memphis, the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock,
and the New York Herald Tribune, for which he became
London bureau chief. He left that job to return to Arkansas—where
he still lives—and write fiction. He is the author of
five acclaimed novels: Norwood, True Grit,
The Dog of the South, Masters of Atlantis,
and Gringos. True Grit was made into two
award-winning films, the first in 1969 starring John Wayne
and the other in 2010 directed by the Coen brothers.
Jennings lives in his hometown of Little Rock,
Arkansas, where he is a freelance writer. His work appears
regularly in the New York Times Book Review, and
his writing has been recognized by the Best American Sports
Writing annual and has been included in the humor anthologies
Mirth of a Nation and The Lowbrow Reader Reader.
His book Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul
of an American City was named a 2010 Okra Pick by the
Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.
6 x 9 • 380 pages
$27.95 cloth • 978-1-935106-50-0
Distributed for the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.