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Duchnowski: Read ‘True Grit,’ skip the movie

Did you miss the double feature of “True Grit” at the Egyptian Theatre on Sunday?

No worries. From what I can tell (having made it to page 111 of the 267-page book), the book is better than the movie. As usual.

“True Grit” isn’t the type of novel I’d normally read, but as it’s the selection for The Big Read of DeKalb County 2013, I picked up a free copy at the showing of the 2010 film starring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. (The role did not show Damon at his most attractive, and while Bridges was nominated for an Academy Award for this performance, I found his gritty accent hard to understand.)

In “True Grit,” an aged Mattie Ross tells the story of how she, a heavy and heavy-drinking federal marshal, and a Texas Ranger rode out into the Choctaw Nation in pursuit of an outlaw who murdered her father.

The Texas Ranger does not remind me in the least of Chuck Norris, but it’s hard not to love 14-year-old Mattie. She drives a hard bargain and displays a quick wit, as well as a headstrong naiveté emblematic of her age. We learn early in the book that Mattie chose Rooster Cogburn as the marshal she paid to pursue her father’s killer because he was known as a man with grit, but I suspect before I’m done with the book that Mattie will convince me that she – not Rooster – is the book’s namesake.

If you’d like your own copy, organizers are passing out paperbacks at most of The Big Read events. The next one is at 7 p.m. Thursday, when Chief Inspector Steve Prosser from the U.S. Marshals Service will discuss the organization’s history at the DeKalb Public Library, 309 Oak St. in DeKalb.

Then, at 7 p.m. Friday, library officials will start showing the Ken Burns documentary “The West.” A new installment of this documentary will be shown every Friday this month.

Activities aren’t limited to DeKalb, either. There will be discussions of the book at 6 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Sycamore Public Library’s Masterpiece Book & Film Club, 103 E. State St. in Sycamore. It also will be discussed at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Hinckley Public Library, 100 Maple St. in Hinckley.

For more information on The Big Read, see

Speaking of libraries: If you go to the Malta Township Public Library today, you’ll find chains and padlocks on the front door.

The library will be closed all day to highlight the dangers of banning and challenging books. Banned Books Week was hosted nationwide by the American Library Association last week, but Malta Township library Director Peggy Wogen emphasizes its message through October.

“If we give the government [including public libraries] the right to ban what we don’t like, that means we give them the right to ban what we do like,” Wogen said.

This is the first time the library has closed because of a banned books program, but Wogen said she’s tried to find different ways to highlight the issue since she joined the library 10 years ago.

One year, she used a wrought iron fire pit to build a display with paper flames and commonly banned titles. Another year, she wrapped commonly banned titles in paper, marked them with the reading level, and let patrons check out the books without knowing what they were.

This year, it was decided months ago to close the library today as part of an extended recognition of Banned Books Week, so patrons could plan in advance.

“If the kids have homework, I know it’s going to be difficult,” Wogen said, “but we let them know in advance.”

• Jillian Duchnowski is the Daily Chronicle’s news editor. Reach her at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, or email

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