Rosenbaum's piece is collected in his volume of essays, The Secret Parts of Fortune, and he has also written on Portis in the New York Observer. "Like Cormac Mccarthy, But Funny" is a splendid introduction to Portis by Ed Park in The Believer.
All 5 of Charles Portis's novels have been reissued by Overlook Press. My favorite has to be The Dog of the South. True Grit is being adapted for film by the Coen brothers, and I hear that they are relying somewhat more on the book than the famous John Wayne version did (which won Wayne his only Oscar, incidentally).
The narrator of The Dog of the South is copy editor Ray Midge, who is searching after his wife Norma and her ex-husband Guy Dupree, who ran away together with Ray's car and credit cards. Along the way Ray meets itinerant huckster Dr. Reo Symes:
I learned that he had been dwelling in the shadows for several years. He had sold hi-lo shag carpet remnants and velvet paintings from the back of a truck in California. He had sold wide shoes by mail, shoe that must have been almost round, at widths up to EEEEEE. He had sold gladiola bulbs and vitamins for men and fat-melting pills and all-purpose hooks and hail-damaged pears. He had picked up small fees counseling veterans on how to fake chest pains so as to gain immediate admission to V.A. hospitals and a free week in bed. He had sold ranchettes in Colorado and unregistered securities in Arkansas.
Ray has the following conversiation with the pious Mrs. Symes, mother of Reo:
"Why kind of Christian do you call yourself?"
"I attend church when I can."
"Cards on the table, Mr. Midge."
"Well, I think I have a religious nature. I sometimes find it hard to determine God's will."
"Inconvenient, you mean."
"That too, yes."
"What does it take to keep you from attending church?"
"I go when I can."
"A light rain?"
"I go when I can."
"This 'religious nature' business reminds me of Reo, your man of science. He'll try to tell you that god is out there in the trees an grass somewhere. Some kind of force. That's pretty thin stuff if you ask me. And Father Jackie is not much better. He says God is a perfect sphere. A ball, if you will."
"There are many different opinions on the subject."
"Did you suppose I didn't know that?"
Mrs. Symes then inquires about Reo, and her friend Melba joins in:
"Is that woman Sybill still living with him?"
"I just don't know about that. He was by himself when I met him in Mexico."
"Good riddance then. He brought an old hussy named Sybil with him the last time. She had great big bushy eyebrows like a man. She and Reo were trying to open up a restaurant somewhere in California and they wanted me to put up the money for it. As if I had any money. Reo tells everybody I have money."
Melba said, "No, it was a singing school. Reo wanted to open a singing school."
"The singing school was an entirely different thing, Melba. This was a restaurant they were talking about. Little Bit of Austria. Sybil was going to sing some kind of foreign songs to the customers while they were eating. She said she was a night-club singer, and a dancer too. She planned to dance all around people's tables while they were trying to eat. I thought these night clubs had beautiful young girls to do that kind of thing but Sybil was almost as old as Reo."
"Older," said Melba. "Don't you remember her arms?"
"They left in the middle of the night. I remember that. Just picked up and left without a word."
"Sybil didn't know one end of a piano keyboard from the other."
"She wore shiny boots and backless dresses."
"But she didn't wear a girdle."
"She wore hardly anything when she was sunning herself back there in the yard."
"Her shameful parts were covered."
"That goes without saying, Melba. It wasn't necessary for you to say that and make us all think about it."
Charles Portis, comic genius.