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Books in consideration: 'True Grit'

February 25, 2011 |  6:37 pm

Truegrit_cover The Coen brothers were not inspired by the 1969 film starring John Wayne to make a new version of "True Grit." Instead, it was Charles Portis' original 1968 novel that they connected with, Ethan Coen told the L.A. Times' Geoff Boucher.

"We both saw the movie as kids when it first came out, but we don't really remember it very well, honestly," Coen said. "I read the book to my kid, out loud, a few years ago and then we started talking about taking our experience of the book and what we liked about the book and making a movie out of that. It's an unusual western story, a novel that's very funny and touching and compelling in many, many different ways."

The Coen brothers film, which stars Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld, is up for 10 Oscars at the Academy Awards on Sunday. Among its nominations is one for best adapted screenplay, written by Joel and Ethan Coen.

In our pages, Times book critic David L. Ulin revisited the original material, Portis' 1968 novel. He wrote:

Like Twain, Portis is a master of voice, of deadpan narration played for comic effect. And like Twain also, he respects his young narrator as a human being with a fully developed moral sensibility, even when the adults in the novel don't....

Portis never flinches from that sense of balance, of consequence; his novel is blunt, brutal at times, and imbued with a profound understanding of compromise and loss. Yet through it all, Mattie perseveres. Or, as she puts it in the middle of the novel: "If you want anything done right, you will have to see to it yourself every time."

The Coen brothers' "True Grit" has brought new attention to Portis' four-decade-old book. The novel "True Grit" has been on the L.A. Times paperback bestseller list for nine weeks.

But the author himself, now 77, lives in Arkansas and prefers not to be in the spotlight. Will he make an Oscar appearance? We'll see Sunday.

-- Carolyn Kellogg