For years Ron Rosenbaum has played John the Baptist to Charles Portis’s Christ, singing hosannas to the novelist whose gas cap he is not worthy to stoop down and unloose. This mission began with Rosenbaum’s 1998 Esquire piece, “Our Least-Known Great Novelist,” which convinced the Overlook Press to reprint Portis’s five novels. In 2002, Rosenbaum named Portis’s Dog of the South the novel he’d most like to force on a neighbor. Today, most reputable style guides require that articles about Portis include a contextualizing graf about Rosenbaum. Why shouldn’t it be so? Jay Jennings, the editor of Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany, cheerfully reports that Portis has fallen out of obscurity: “Once at a party in New York, I met novelist Jonathan Lethem and . . . mentioned that [Portis] was our greatest unknown novelist.” “Yes,” Lethem retorted, “he’s...


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