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Gringos Paperback – May 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 269 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook TP; First Edition edition (May 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585670936
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585670932
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Portis's 1991 comic novel follows protagonist Jimmy Burns, who has expatriated to Mexico to live a quiet existence. Enter a female stalker, Mayan tomb-robbing archaeologists, UFO hunters, and a group looking for psychic happenings. Good, quirky fun.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"I've always thought Charles Portis had a wonderful talent--original, quirky, exciting. It's an engaging, touching book. -- Larry McMurtry

Charles Portis is perhaps the most original, indescribable sui generis talent overlooked by literary culture in America. -- Ron Rosenbaum, Esquire

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Customer Reviews

One of the best novels today.
Hanni U. Taylor
He has a very dry sense of humour and I really enjoy the slices of life he gives us.
Garry Taylor
He is a very engaging author, and very humorous.
J. Alford

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By S. McHale on November 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
Disclaimer: This is my first Portis read, so I have no basis for comparison.
That being said, this is one of the most enjoyable reads I can recall. All the other Amazon reviewers have it right: it is a wonderful menagerie of characters as sized up by the narrator.
What I can add to the list of reviews is the striking parallels to Conrad's Heart of Darkness. You have an odd-job protagonist who, along with is unique travelling companions, goes on a strange journey into the Mexican jungle to search for a missing friend. Along the way, he encounters excesses in human behavior, archeological adventurers, cultists and hippies. At the end of his journey, he finds a self-styled Captain Kurtz-like character: a self-imposed spiritual shaman-cum-criminal. Note that this is not the character that the protagonist is tracking down, but it does lead to an unexpected climax. Of course, the journey really isn't the point to the novel. The point is to capture all the colorful personalities along the way - Portis succeeds marvelously!
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By trh7g@virginia.edu on February 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The one constant in a Charles Portis novel is the tone: dry, deadpan, but never condescending. Often the tone serves as a buffer between the characters and the harsh, arbitrarily violent world around them. In Portis's first novel, _Norwood_, the strategy is largely successful, though in Portis's second and most famous novel, _True Grit_, violence assumes a fundamental place in the narrative.
Portis's latest novel, _Gringos_, about a group of American expatriates in Mexico, may be his most disturbing yet. Although it begins slowly, introducing us to a seemingly random menagerie of locals, dropouts, and hippies, the novel builds to a brutal, unforgettable climax in the remote Mexican jungle.
_Gringos_ is alternately funny and brutal, yet leaves an unexpectedly sweet aftertaste. It's a rollicking, adventurous masterpiece from one of America's finest living novelists.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Seachranaiche on December 29, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have just completed a frenzy of reading Charles Portis novels, and I had found them all to be very good or very funny or both until I stumbled and almost fell with Gringos. This is one of those books you read and think everyone else understands but you because there really is a lot going on: there are a lot of characters, a wiley protagonist, and Portis got good blurbs on the back jacket. But I didn't get it, not this time. The characters are all classic Portis-wacky and larger than life yet still very real somehow-and the quest is classic Portis too, a journey into the jungle in search of an ancient Mayan codex, UFOs, space aliens, hippie outlaws, and runaway children. I mean, how can you go wrong with a plot like that?

The dialog is not as snappy as other Portis novels, and the characters (so many of them this time that I couldn't keep up) did things for reasons that I wasn't able to follow. I suspect that with a second read, additional details will pop out to make Gringos more intelligible. So if I "get it" with a second reading, I'll dial back in and change my rating.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sam Sattler on April 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
Jimmy Burns is an ex-Marine, an ex-dealer in stolen pre-Columbian artifacts, and an American expat living the simple life deep inside Mexico in a little town called Merida. He does manage to make a living using his old beat up truck to do small hauling jobs to the jungle for archaeologists and others seeking to exploit the country's buried past, but he is easily distracted. Jimmy enjoys his down time and is not overly concerned about his future, contented to take life one day at a time.

While he may be an idler, Jimmy does care about the people closest to him and he has a keen sense of the absurd. This is a good thing since his little corner of Mexico is about to be invaded by some of the most absurd Americans imaginable, a group of hippies and slackers who barely know where they are, much less why they are.

Gringos centers around Jimmy's search for Rudy Kurle, a young man for whom Jimmy feels responsible after allowing him to wander away from a dangerously isolated dig site. Jimmy's search takes him and his crew to an ancient holy site just when dozens of the worthless hippies converge there in expectation of some major revelation. Here the search grows complicated, and changes focus entirely, when Jimmy is forced to rescue two children who will not otherwise survive the night's weirdness.

Gringos is one of those novels that suffer from a lack of likable characters to such a degree that it is difficult to care what happens to any of them, including the novel's supposed hero/narrator. The whole novel, at times, seems as tired and pointless as the lives led by its characters, making its ending, in which Jimmy unresistingly drifts into the next phase of his life, unsurprising.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By J. Mullin on July 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
When I recently stumbled across The Dog of the South by Portis, I felt an excitement much like I felt when I came across Richard Russo's Straight Man at a bargain rack. Here was a great comic novelist I had never heard of, and I couldn't wait to get my hand on more of his work. Well, Gringos covers some of the same ground as Dog of the South (DOTS), but in this reviewer's opinion it lacked much of the humor, direction and cohesion of the earlier work, and I labored to finish it.
The book takes place entirely in Mexico, amid small towns and ancient Mayan ruins being picked over by salvage dealers and hippies along for the ride. Unlike DOTS, which had a handful of very real and distinctive characters, Gringos is chock full of characters who do nothing to really distinguish themselves, and so about 100 pages in the reader starts to confuse Rudy, Roland, Doc Ritchie, Doc Flandin, Eli, Skinner, and a bunch of other male characters, together with a similar slew of unmemorable females such as Gail, Louise,Alma and Beth.
Narrator Jimmy seems to have as little purpose as humanly possible in life - he makes his living doing odd jobs, stumbling across valuable artifacts and selling them, and working on archeological expeditions but whenever he is given the opportunity in the novel to make money, (ie recover a reward), he refuses the money. He cares more about his truck's welfare than his own. He shows no interest in the opposite sex, and kind of falls into a marriage which is convenient because the woman cooks well and wakes up around the same time each day. He goes through the action in the novel with a very knowledgeable, but cool detachment, unlike the hilarious fastidiousness demonstrated by Portis' narrator in DOTS.
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