“Escape Velocity” Now in a Revised Edition

Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany (Revised Edition)
Edited by Jay Jennings
New afterword by Donna Tartt
978-1-945624-26-1 (cloth), $34.95, pub. date: August 31, 2021

For those who care about literature or simply love a good laugh (or both), Charles Portis has long been one of America’s most admired novelists. His 1968 novel True Grit is fixed in the contemporary canon, and four more have been hailed as comic masterpieces. For the first time, his other writings—journalism, travel stories, short fiction, memoir, and even a play—were brought together in Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany, published in 2012 as his first new book in more than twenty years. This revised edition includes a new afterword by best-selling author Donna Tartt, who first published her remembrance in the New York Times following Portis’s death in 2020.

All the familiar Portis elements are in this collection: picaresque adventures, deadpan humor, an expert eye for detail and keen ear for the spoken word, and encounters with oddball characters both real and imagined. The collection encompasses the breadth of his fifty-year writing career, from his gripping reportage of the civil rights movement for the New York Herald Tribune to a comic short story about the demise of journalism in the twenty-first century. His three-act play, Delray’s New Moon, was performed onstage in 1996 and published in Escape Velocity for the first time.

Whether this is your first journey to the world of Portis or a long-awaited return to it, you’ll agree with critic Ron Rosenbaum—whose essay appears here alongside tributes by other writers—that Portis “will come to be regarded as the author of classics on the order of a twentieth-century Mark Twain, a writer who captures the soul of America.”

Charles Portis was born and raised in south Arkansas, graduating from Hamburg High School. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War, earned a journalism degree from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and became a newspaper reporter. He worked for the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock, and the New York Herald Tribune, for which he became London bureau chief. He left that job to return to Arkansas—where he lived until the end of his life—and write fiction. He authored five acclaimed novels: Norwood, True Grit, The Dog of the South, Masters of Atlantis, and Gringos. True Grit was made into two award-winning films, the first in 1969 starring John Wayne and the other in 2010 directed by the Coen brothers. Portis died in Little Rock on February 17, 2020. Read more about Portis in the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas here.

Jay Jennings lives in his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas, where he is a writer and an editor-at-large for the Oxford American. His work appears regularly in the New York Times Book Review, and his writing has been recognized by the Best American Sports Writing annual and has been included in the humor anthologies Mirth of a Nation and The Lowbrow Reader Reader. His book Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City was named a 2010 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.

The revised edition of Escape Velocity is now available from local and national book sellers, including the Galleries & Bookstore at Library Square in the CALS Roberts Library in downtown Little Rock; online retailers; and our distributer, the University of Arkansas Press: https://www.uapress.com/product/escape-velocity/.

Find more books published by Butler Center Books here.

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