LARB Raises the Curtain on the Portis Cult
The media-averse, much-loved and hardly prolific writer Charles Portis was featured twice on the pages of the Los Angeles Review of Books. First, in her essay “A Portis Reader,” Senior Editor Julie Cline called him “a ‘writer’s writer,’ a reclusive ‘cult novelist’ with an ‘oddball’ cast of characters running the gamut from outlaws, shit-kickers, and wizards, to loners, rejects, geezers, and misfits, not least of which is ‘the world’s smallest perfect man’ (a midget!), but also not forgetting the fortune-telling Joann, a ‘college-educated chicken.’ In short, a lot that signifies a terrific ‘quirkiness’ on the part of both author and reviewer.” (You should really read the whole thing, it’s great.)
And then Glen David Gold reviewed Escape Velocity (also great), a collection of Portis’s previously uncollected miscellany. Included in the book was Charles Portis’s only produced play, Delray’s New Moon.
Editor Jennings writes that Portis didn’t seem to have a copy of it, a couple of actors weren’t sure if they’d kept theirs, and its inclusion here seems to almost be happenstance.
Oh my. Let’s get this out of the way: it’s hard to tell how it would stage, but as a read, Delray’s New Moon is a fitting addition to the canon. I’d dare to call it his sixth major work. It’s that funny.
And with that, a plan was hatched.
With the help of the Los Angeles Review of Books, Glen David Gold recently staged a table reading of Delray’s New Moon at the Soho House in West Hollywood. A marriage of Gold’s passion for Portis and LARB’s mission to introduce an ever-wider audience to great writing, the evening was a hit.
The cast brought Portis’s signature deadpan language to life thanks to the direction of Matt Shakman, a producer and director of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Thanks also to Bauman’s Rare Books for their support of the event. And thanks, finally, to the incredible cast, which included Paul Dooley, Armin Shimerman, Anne Gee Byrd, Dakin Matthews, Sara Botsford, Deborah Puette, Michael Weston, Timothy Omundson, Artemis Pebdani, Emily Alyn Lind, and Josh Breslow.
- Eve Bachrach