Jewish World Review Oct. 31, 2012/ 15 Mar-Cheshvan, 5773
By Paul Greenberg
"A lot of people leave
Those are the lucky ones, the Arkies/Arkansawyers/Arkansans who can't ever make it out of this small, wonderfully interconnected state. Or are drawn back into it by some inexorable force. Call it fate or failure or necessity or whatever you like if you're one of those folks embarrassed by any mention of the will of God.
Sooner or later these blessed souls come home and settle in, having discovered or rediscovered their natural habitat, aka destiny. As for those who never make it back, they may spend the rest of their lives without a sense of place.
Much like vegetation, the transplanted may not thrive in other than native soil, which is why it is necessary, when inserting them into inhospitable climes, to leave their roots intact, sustained by at least some of the nutrients that made them what they are, or used to be.
No wonder the surest instinct of those cast into the Southern diaspora is to seek out other Southerners, just to hear a soft word, a familiar tone, or feel the unspoken comfort of home and old times there not forgotten. Their ears perk up at the sound of a Southern accent across a crowded room.
They grow nostalgic, that is, homesick for the past. Sometimes in the worst ways. The South can assume freakish proportions in their telling. Especially in the worst of the breed, the professional Southerner. Pitiful. If I encounter one more mezzotint in a
Some of these lost souls finally make it home, where even the damned are welcomed like the prodigals they are. As if they'd never left. Think of
The self-exiled may return at any time, and walk in as though they'd never left. ("Haven't seen you around lately. You been sick?") Then they'll sit down and throw off a masterpiece or two, like "True Grit." And lesser works -- "Norwood," "Dog of the South" -- that still tower above anything on the meager market today. Portis keeps on being discovered -- or periodically re-discovered. That's the way it is with old friends and good writers.
Now we have a collection of Portis's miscellaneous writings dished up under the title "Escape Velocity," and emphasizing what long has needed emphasizing -- his journalism.
Just don't let the self-absorbed introductions and marginalia in this miscellany spoil the taste of
The charm of
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