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The Dog of the South Paperback – June 5, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 253 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook TP (June 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585679313
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585679317
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Charles Portis may be the sneakiest comedian in American letters, not to mention one of the funniest. And there's no better specimen of his double-edged art than The Dog of the South, which Overlook Press has recently rescued from a long, cruel, out-of-print limbo. As usual, the narrator is a down-at-the-heels Southerner with an eye for the homely detail and a mission to accomplish. What Ray Midge means to do is track down his significant other: "My wife Norma had run off with Guy Dupree and I was waiting around for the credit card billings to come in so I could see where they had gone." In another author's hands, this opening sentence might lead straight to a bloody, noir-ish denouement. Here it's merely the excuse for a meandering, semi-pointless quest, during which the fussbudget protagonist is assailed by tropical storms, grifters, hippies, car trouble, and even an assortment of airborne trash: "I had to keep the Buick speed below what I took to be about sixty because at that point the wind came up through the floor hole in such a way that the Heath wrappers were suspended behind my head in a noisy brown vortex."

Hapless, rhetorically challenged Ray Midge would more than fulfill any novel's quota for comic creation. But Portis pairs him with another indelible nutter, Dr. Reo Symes. A font of dubious financial schemes, Symes attaches himself to Ray like a peevish, passive-aggressive Pancho Sanza, and his non-sequitur-studded riffs must be heard to be believed:

I always tried to help Leon and you see the thanks I got. I hired him to drive for me right after his rat died. He was with the Murrell Brothers Shows at that time, exhibiting a fifty-pound rat from the sewers of Paris, France. Of course it didn't really weigh fifty pounds and it wasn't your true rat and it wasn't from Paris, France, either. It was some kind of animal from South America. Anyway, the thing died and I hired Leon to drive for me. I was selling birthstone rings and vibrating jowl straps from door to door and he would let me out at one end of the block and wait on me at the other end.
The vibrating jowl straps are the kicker here, of course. But it's the overall futility of the enterprise that gives Symes his comic potency, and makes him Ray's natural companion in arms. Neither of these guys is going to accomplish anything: they're Beckett clowns in Sansabelt trousers, too enervated by the heat even to agonize. Still, you won't find a more delicious (or less reliable) narrator in contemporary fiction, and Charles Portis's genius for inventing all-American eccentrics is anything but futile. --James Marcus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

¦One hot summer we rented this house near Austin, Tex., that was on a river with natural springs where you could swim. I found a paperback of Charles Portis¦ Dog of the South in the house, which I¦m ashamed to say I stole because it was so funny. I had to have it! Since then I¦ve bought other copies of that book and left them at people¦s houses in an attempt to revere the karma¦ Arthur Bradford, author of Dogwalker


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Customer Reviews

Keillor's stories are great, but he admits that Portis is the master!
Phelps Gates
Savor it, because once you tear through this one, you'll finish reading his other stuff really quickly.
Michael Scott
Mr. Portis, himself, is such an interesting character...very puzzling to some.
P. Henline

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 80 people found the following review helpful By John Dolan on June 18, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It's great to see Portis' finest novel getting a little attention at last. Pity it took everyone 20 years to notice that Dog of the South is a masterpiece. Here are the Seventies as they were lived outside Hollywood:an American "Era of Stagnation," a stagnant pond in which tiny creatures like Ray Midge, protagonist of this novel, move in little circles. Ray is a bore, a weapons-nerd and military-history pedant, a tiresome "selfish little fox" in the words of his dancing ex-mother-in-law and "an effete yeoman" in his own estimation. But he is also the voice to which Portis assigns some of the funniest and most beautiful sentences ever written. Ray's failed attempt to live out an heroic tale of vengeance is the story, and it's a great story; but it's Portis' extraordinary prose that will stay with you long after you finish this novel. My brothers and I, who had read this novel dozens of times, used to conduct whole conversations consisting of memorized sentences from the novel. It's that good.
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46 of 46 people found the following review helpful By E. Hawkins on October 8, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
'The Dog of the South' is a perfect novel. This sounds like hyperbole. It is short; there is very little in the way of plot; the characters do not develop in any way: yet the book is as engaging and entertaining as anything I have ever read. Before embarking on my second reading (just a fortnight after I finished my first) I planned to write down my favourite lines from the book. I gave up because I was transcribing almost the entire novel. No synopsis can do it justice. Ray Blount, Jr. has said of this book that 'no-one should die without reading it.' I'm with him all the way.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 6, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read NORWOOD when I was about eleven years old, and loved it, reading it once or twice a year until well into my teens, when the book either fell apart or got lost somewhere.
Imagine my joy at being enfolded in Charles Portis' marvelous universe once again, where a man puts plastic bags on his junkyard dog's feet because the dog doesn't like getting his feet wet;old men in big shoes and smocks hollar outside motel rooms, and, when confronted say, "I'm just fooling around," and missionaries politely disagree over who is more destructive: human beings or goats.
This book is a million laughs. Readers of NORWOOD might find some similarities between the narrator/protagonist and Norwood's brother-in-law Bill Bird.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. Mullin on June 26, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Trying to describe Charles Portis' classic novel The Dog of the South is not easy, since this book doesn't fit nicely into any category I've encountered before. The book is sort of a cross between Confederacy of Dunces, and maybe a more accessible (and enjoyable) Pynchon. The narrator, Ray Midge, is a 28 year old fussbudget from Arkansas who has trouble settling down to a real job, and whose wife Norma has recently left him for her first husband, Guy Dupree, a hapless radical arrested for threatening the President. Midge wouldn't be THAT mad except the lovers on the lam took Ray's Ford Torino, and left him Guy's [run down] Buick filled with Heath wrappers, and reeking of dog.
This relatively sparse outline of a plot sets a wonderful story in motion, as Midge follows the trail of his wife's credit card receipts to follow them to Central America, ostensibly to get his car back. Along the way Midge meets a zany ex-doctor, named Symes, a loony Louisiana character who seems to me right off the pages of John Kennedy Toole's masterpiece Confederacy of Dunces.
It is difficult to explain the plot and the characters, it is simply a parade of oddball characters and circumstances. Ray looks out the window at some pelicans, and one gets hit by lightning. He makes polite conversation to a kid, asking him "How many states have you seen?" and the kid inexplicably snarls back "More than you!" Every meeting and social interaction takes a somewhat unexpected, but strangely believable turn so there was something to enjoy and chuckle about on every page.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Haschka TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 10, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The hero of THE DOG OF THE SOUTH is Ray Midge, an unemployed, twenty-six year old underachiever from Little Rock, AR. Ray's wife, Norma, has just run off with her first husband, Guy Dupree, accompanied by Ray's credit cards and his prized Ford Torino. Guided southwards towards Mexico and beyond by an elongating trail of credit card receipts, Ray sets out in Guy's abandoned and dilapidated 1963 Buick Special to recover his wheels and, almost as an afterthought, his wife.

Arriving in Mexico, Ray realizes that Guy is headed to a family-owned farm in British Honduras. While in chase, Ray makes the acquaintance of Dr. Rheo Syms, an aging and overweight scam artist, snake-oil salesman, and discredited M.D. living out of an old and immobilized school bus christened "The Dog of the South". Midge offers Syms a ride to Honduras, where the latter's mother runs a Christian mission in the nation's capital city. Mrs. Syms holds title to an undeveloped island in the Mississippi River, and Rheo needs to pry it out of her hands for a money-making scheme of his own.

The initial attraction of the book is the disarmingly engaging personality of Midge. Ray, though socially and financially adrift at the moment, is not without intelligence and is apparently well-read and self-taught on a number of subjects, e.g. the Civil War. Though the quest for his lost Torino and Norma may be naive and ill-considered, his single-minded pursuit of the two is admirable, especially as he persists in the face of Rheo's dreamy and meandering disconnect from reality, or at least reality as Ray perceives it. Ray is basically good-hearted, generous, and loyal to his commitments, everything that Syms is not in comparison.
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