Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guest blogger: Joanne Yeck

We at Fine Print are very excited to bring a series of posts by local authors. We have asked them to share their thoughts about their favorite book, something they've read recently, or the role reading has played in their lives. After earning her doctorate in cinema studies at the University of Southern California, Joanne Yeck taught and wrote about film history for many years.  In 1995, she followed her family roots to central Virginia where she fell head over heels in love with Buckingham County. Today, her fascination for Virginia has translated into a full-time occupation. When she is not exploring in the field, avoiding ticks and snakes, she can be found digging through dusty papers or spending endless hours reading microfilm. In between adventures, she lives in Kettering, Ohio. Joanne Yeck is the owner of Slate River Press, which published her most recent books, At a Place Called Buckingham (2011) and The Jefferson Brothers (Fall 2012). She is a Goodreads author. You can learn more about her early writings concerning motion pictures and American popular culture here. Joanne Yeck will be one of the local authors at A Tasting With Friends at Benham's Grove on September 13. For more information on this event or to buy tickets, check out this page.

A Peculiar Role Model: Mattie Ross and True Grit

A few years ago, I embarked on a little time travel, revisiting books of my youth. Some were sentimental favorites. Others shaped my thinking. Others, I suspect, weren’t fully grasped the first time around. This eclectic tour has included: Huckleberry Finn, Jane Eyre, Anthem, Little Women, Siddhartha, Slaughterhouse Five, Main Street, The Great Gatsby, and The Razor’s Edge. Most recently, I revisited True Grit by Charles Portis. Why did I wait so long?

I was first introduced to Mattie Ross, a heroine with “true grit,” shortly after the book was published in 1968. Like Mattie, I had been shaped by a Presbyterian ethos (especially the work ethic). Like Mattie, I was about fourteen years old. But, unlike Mattie Ross, I was a product of the post-war baby boom living in oh-so-safe suburbs. Mattie, on the other hand, was a product of the fading days of the Wild West. A straight-shooter, fearless, she was a girl with a mission. She called a spade a spade. When the famous outlaw, Frank James, did not stand for a lady, she called him “trash” to his face. She could survive anything.

This marvelous book fell out of print, only to be resurrected in the 21st century, with a wonderful afterword by Donna Tartt, who also narrated the audio book (2006). Tartt’s reading is perfection. Here’s hoping that both Portis’ book and Tartt’s reading remain available for generations to come. If this were the world of Farenheit 451 (a title yet to be revisited), I would memorize True Grit. It’s that funny. It’s that real. And, like every good western hero, Mattie Ross is true to her code to the end. I aspire to do the same.

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