On April 3, 2014, Charles Portis was honored with the Porter Prize Lifetime Achievement Award. This prestigous award is presented every five years to an Arkansas writer; previous recipients are Donald Harington and Miller Williams. At the Porter Prize gala in Little Rock, writer and editor (and OA contributor) Jay Jennings gave a moving speech honoring his friend. Jennings edited Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany, which collects the author's writing across varied genres—including several pieces that have appeared in the Oxford American. (We recommend you read and revisit "The Wind Bloweth Where it Listeth" and "Motel Life, Lower Reaches.") Jennings allowed us to print his remarks here.
And so the burning question: How did they do it? How did Keats and Lennon create at an unmatched rate and quality? We all might naturally ask these questions, though artists, writers, and musicians can be forgiven if they ask them with a certain greedy, eager need. What chemicals must come together to create this sort of explosion? And can we try it at home?
From the ages of nine to eleven, I worked as a spy. No one paid me, nor did I report my findings to any higher-ups. I discussed my cases with my partner, who went by code name Mountain Chicken Mother of the Buddha.