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Combinations of Jacksons

by Charles Portis


IN an article about the novelist Charles Portis last year in Esquire, Ron Rosenbaum wrote, "Portis has become the subject of a kind of secret society, a small but extremely elite ... group of admirers among other writers who consider him perhaps the least-known great writer in America.... A writer who -- if there's any justice in literary history as opposed to literary celebrity -- will come to be regarded as the author of classics on the order of a twentieth-century Mark Twain." Attempting several years ago to explain the special regard in which Portis is held by his admirers, Roy Blount Jr. wrote in these pages, "The first novel, Norwood, is the text reread most often by Portis devotees, who say things like 'The way I decided whether to marry my wife: I gave her Norwood and waited. And then I heard her laughing upstairs.'" The Overlook Press is reissuing four of Portis's novels, beginning with The Dog of the South in May and Norwood in August. Both books appeared recently on Modern Library's Web-site listing of the best 100 novels published in English since 1900, as selected by readers.

Before he turned to fiction writing, Portis was a reporter for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Arkansas Gazette, and the New York Herald-Tribune. He is perhaps best known for his second novel, True Grit, the movie version of which starred John Wayne. "Combinations of Jacksons," a memoir of growing up in a small Arkansas town during the Second World War, is Portis's fourth contribution to The Atlantic Monthly.

("Combinations of Jacksons," by Charles Portis is no longer available online.)

Copyright © 1999 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; May 1999; Combinations of Jacksons; Volume 283, No. 5; pages 81-92.

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