For no good reason: Charles Portis remembers when | Rock Candy

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

For no good reason: Charles Portis remembers when

Posted By on Wed, Mar 4, 2009 at 4:48 PM

click to enlarge unknown.jpg
I was reminded, yesterday when I read that the UA Press is putting out an oral history of the Gazette in April, about this interview that Roy Reed, who edited the UA Press book, did with Charles Portis in 2001 about his days at the Gazette.

It's full of "Do you remember so and sos?" which only old school news geeks will enjoy. At least until the conversation moves to Portis' days at the International Herald Tribune and the so-and-sos are Tom Wolfe and Jimmy Breslin. But there's also some great newsroom color. Stories about pranks, covering cock-fighting matches in Garland County and strange copy editors who were not the inspiration for Ray Midge.

It's definitely worth a read. But below I've picked out the best bits.

"I got out of the Marines in May of 1955 and went back to Hamburg. A friend of mine there, Billy Rodgers, had just gotten out of the Air Force, and he had a car. So we drove up to Fayetteville and enrolled for the summer semester at the university…You had to choose a major, so I put down journalism. I must have thought it would be fun and not very hard, something like barber college — Not to offend the barbers. They probably provide a more useful service."

"[R]emember, we couldn’t use the word “story.” It smacked of fiction. Mr. Heiskell said the proper word for a news account was “article.” And we couldn’t use “evacuate” as of a building or a city being evacuated. He thought it might remind readers of a bodily function. I don’t know what softer word we used. There can’t be many synonyms for “evacuate.” And no photographs of snakes or other vermin, with those same sensitive readers in mind. And we spelled “Tokyo” with an “i” instead of a “y.” But I sort of liked those quirks." David Simon is definitely a J.N. Heiskell man.

"Tom came to us from the Washington Post. He was polite enough not to roll his eyes when I asked if he might be related to the other Thomas Wolfe. He said he wasn’t, but it must have been a tiresome question for him then. I wonder if it comes up at all now.

Speaking of the other Wolfe, I remember that an old brig rat from Phenix City, Alabama, gave me a copy of Look Homeward, Angel at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in 1954. An old corporal who had been promoted and busted a lot. More ribbons and hash marks than stripes. He said his girlfriend had read this entire book to him, and it wasn’t bad stuff to listen to. Do barmaids still do that? It must have taken weeks. She worked in a bar in Jacksonville. Or maybe she was the only one who ever did it. I had never heard of Thomas Wolfe. It was a revelation." The first Tom is Tom Wolfe, of course, who Portis worked with at the International Herald Tribune.

Sign up for the Daily Update email


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Lindsey Millar

  • The Crooks in Government Edition

    The arrest of a former Medicaid integrity director, the suspension of a major health care provider from Medicaid, the arrest of a state representative for failure to pay taxes and more — all covered on this week's podcast.
    • Jun 29, 2018
  • The magic of curry paste

    Or: How lawyer-turned-Thai food evangelist Richard Glasgow learned to stop worrying and cook Thai food.
    • Jun 28, 2018
  • UPDATE: Attorney General Rutledge announces public integrity division

    Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced on Wednesday the creation of a Public Integrity Division within her office's existing Special Investigations Department. That department was created in 2009 to investigate cybercrimes and metal theft. The new division will have two investigators, making around $58,000. The new division will join the Ark Trust Public Corruption Task Force, which was formed in 2013 by the state's U.S. attorneys, Arkansas State Police, the FBI and local police agencies after the arrest of former State Treasurer Martha Shoffner.
    • Jun 27, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Coming Monday: Little Rock Black Restaurant Week

    MoTown Monday is Ceci's Chicken and Waffles. Tasty Tuesday is Sims BBQ and Brewster's Soul Food Cafe. Wing Wednesday is Chicken King and Chicken Wangs. Soul Food Thursday is Lindsey's BBQ and Hospitality House and Food Truck Festival Friday is @station801. It's the first Black Restaurant Week.
    • Mar 8, 2017
  • New music from Isaac Alexander

    New music from Isaac Alexander.
    • Jul 14, 2017
  • No Small Talk Ep. 8: Katy Henriksen, Springs Arts preview

    A packed episode this week of "No Small Talk": a chat with Katy Henriksen, from Of Note on KUAF; Stephanie Smittle breaks down the Spring Arts issue; and we finish up with just a tiny bit of Oscar chatter.
    • Mar 9, 2018

Most Recent Comments


© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation