Wednesday, 19 July 2017

“Like eating with Hitler”: Gringos by Charles Portis

Any writer who works ‘it was like eating with Hitler’ into his book, making it sound as natural and belonging as you please, deserves all the fulsome praise reviewers can muster. So it’s hard to reason why Charles Portis is so unread. It’s not as though readers who stumble upon him say terrible things about his books. On the contrary, if they’re not idiots they say the kindest things imaginable. The trouble is, it takes some legwork to discover Mr. Portis, which is less than I can say for a mess of overrated hacks whom the American idiocracy thrust upon us as classics. In almost every case, from Hemmingway to Vonnegut, they are not. Portis, however, is quite simply one of the greatest American novelists, who also, coincidentally, knew which way the wind was blowing in the culture wars as far back as the late 80s, which is when he wrote Gringos.

The narrator of Gringos is a no-nonsense American expat grouch who lives, as the title suggests, in Mexico. Any attempt at expanding on that will only lead to more convolution than is good for any potential reader, except to note that in an earlier period of his life he’d illegally excavated pre-Columbian artefacts. Which is to say he knows his way around anthropologists and other varieties of scholarly riff raff who sniff out such things. As I say, this book was written almost thirty years ago, so I was elated to find the following:

“In the Anthropology Club, as I understood it, you were permitted, if not required, to despise only one thing, and that was your own culture, that of the West. Otherwise you couldn’t prefer one thing over another.”

Two perfect little sentences that capture the poisonous rot at the heart of leftwing retards today. Beautiful.

I discovered Portis last year when upon a whim I heeded the recommendation of someone online to read True Grit. Having never heard of him, and being only vaguely aware of the movies based upon the book, it was with some trepidation that I began, only to fall in love with it from the first sentence. Gringos likewise, though you’d never know both were penned by the same author. The only giveaway is the ease with which Portis inhabits the voice of his narrators, making them authentic in a way few if any can match.

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