Oxford American Events

50 Years of True Grit



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. 

For updates on this event, our special guests, and the on-sale date for tickets, check back to this webpage and/or be sure to sign up for updates directly to your inbox via our Oxford American Presents e-newsletter.

IrisDeMent TrueGrit Photo JOOMLAIris DeMent

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 Clay, in the Globe and Mail (Toronto)