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Norwood Paperback – August 1, 1999

56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This is the second installment in Overlook's planned four-volume series of Portis reissues. Portis made his debut into the book world with this 1966 first novel, which many insist is his best. LJ's reviewer found the book more character- than plot-driven but nonetheless enjoyed it. (LJ 8/66)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"[A] glimpse of how a 20th century Mark Twain might write." Entertainment Weekly --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: The Overlook Press (August 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879517034
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879517038
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 29, 1998
Format: Paperback
I wanted to order another copy of this to ensure I'd never be without it. Unfortunately, it appears it's out of print. I first read NORWOOD when I was in high school in the 70's, and it is the ONLY thing I've ever read that has actually become funnier and richer in repeated adult readings. I can quote entire paragraphs by heart, and I have my husband read it out loud to me when I'm blue. We both use phrases from it to describe absurd situations. Charles Portis, of TRUE GRIT fame, is a wonderful writer, and this book deserved better than having a mediocre movie starring Glen Campbell made of it. My humor runs to Woody Allen and Cohen Brothers movies, Young Frankenstein, A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, and sassy Southern writers. If any of these match your taste, try NORWOOD. If you can find it.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Bucherwurm on January 6, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Norwood Pratt, our ex marine hero, hails from Ralph, Texas. Now don't get the idea that he lives out in the boonies somewhere; Ralph is not too far distant from that bigger city, Texarkana. Ralph's a bit jaded with his job at the Nipper gas station, and somehwhat claustrophobic living in the same small house with his sister Vernell and her husband Bill Bird. Thus we collect a $70 debt owed by a fellow marine.
Norwood gets to the big city via car and freight train, and then finds that his buddy has moved back to his home around Memphis. Now on a bus journey, Norwood gradually assembles an entourage of a young woman, a midget, and an educated chicken. Does Norwood collect his debt? It doesn't matter. The money owed is a Hitchcockian McGuffin; it's our travels with Norwood that really matter.
It's a funny book that provides us with the company of an interesting group of simple, small town folk. Mind you they are mostly decent folk, and Mr. Portis doesn't put them down. In fact you get to learn some new aphorisms such as, "Don't let your mouth write a check that you're ass can't cash." It's a slender volume with wide margins that can be read quickly; more like an extended novella - if such a thing exists. If you have a rusting '57 Hudson in your front yard you will feel totally at home with Norwood.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Hulsey on January 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
_Norwood_ is "minimalist" in the truest possible sense. Charles Portis's first novel is about a twenty-three year old Korean War veteran who travels from Texas to New York and back, ostensibly to collect a loan of seventy-five dollars from an old Army buddy.
This deliberately inconsequential narrative combines with a flat, almost repertorial narrative voice and reticent, unremarkable characters to produce a book that manages to be both portentous and weightless at the same time. _Norwood_ straddles the fine line between nonsense and allegory.
In this respect _Norwood_ resembles some of the better fictions of James Purdy (_Malcolm_ comes to mind). As with Purdy, Portis's world always threatens to erupt into random and horrific violence. But unlike Purdy, Portis's deadpan voice conceals an almost compulsive good nature. Although Portis displays his characters' occasionally violent impulses, he refuses to pursue those impulses to tragic or ironic ends.
_Norwood_ is also one of the funniest books I've ever read, and, refreshingly, the laughter leaves a pleasant taste in the mouth.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Seachranaiche on November 21, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Norwood Pratt has neither guile nor an education, but he possesses a comic wisdom that guides him from one nutty encounter to another. He is the man he is, regardless, slow to fight but ready to fight, honest, to a point, and rationalizing beyond that. He never internalizes, seldom jumps to conclusions, and just proceeds along the rightness of his course without question. He is a Faulknerian character distilled down to the basics, so unsophisticated he is hilariously honest.

Norwood is a fast-paced comedy of the simpleton winning out in the end because his sights are so low he can't lose, and Charles Portis' social commentary should not be missed, but if you do, the dialogue alone is worth the read. And if the characters in Norwood seem too silly to be real? Well, I recognized them more than I care to admit.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Shaun Mason on February 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
When one thinks of the truly great Southern writers (Faulkner, O'Connor, Williams, Percy, Crews, et al) one always thinks of their funniest pieces first. Sure, there is nothing that compares with the genius of The Sound and the Fury, but it's As I Lay Dying that most people recognize as their favorite Falkner novel, mostly because of its dark humor.
Then along comes Charles Portis, who writes the funniest Southern novel there is.
Norwood is simple, yet complex.
Brilliant in its simplicty.
Simply brilliant.
I think of the funniest books ever, like Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, The Bushwhacked Piano by Thomas McGuane, The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy, Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance by Richard Powers. Norwood easily attains their ranks. As others on this page have mentioned, it's minimalistic, but it is also extremely rich in characterization and dialogue in the unique way only well-rendered Southern fiction can be. It gets to know you quickly, just as the characters get to know each other quickly.
Norwood is a work of genius. Charles Portis, I salute your incredible craftsmanship. A book everyone should read.
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