As I still sift through different western works of literature to determine what to include in my curated collection, I came across the 1968 novel True Grit by Charles Portis. This fairly straightforward novel was turned into a motion picture starring John Wayne the very next year, which actually gained Wayne the only Oscar he ever received. Because of the overshadowing of the novel by the film, I had never known that there actually was a novel; I thought the film was an original script.
I think I will probably end up adding this particular work to my collection, chiefly because of its influence. I don’t think there can be a lot of doubt that the western as a genre is on the decline in 21st century. Even film projects, such as last year’s Lone Ranger, have flopped at the box office, and the American Cowboy is becoming less an less of an archetypal constant in fiction. True Grit (as in the story, but not necessarily the novel) stands apart as a somewhat transcendent work, inspiring not only the 1969 John Wayne film, but also the contemporary Cohen brothers to rework their own version of the story in a successful 2010 film of the same title. The plot of the book and the adaptions centers around fairly traditional American ideals, such as justice, persistence, and endurance in the face of adversity. It may be that the quality of the storytelling has been enough to keep audiences engaged for nearly 45 years, and/or it could be that the plot qualities mentioned above have been able to continue to inspire audiences to keep reading/watching.