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Gringos

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  740 ratings  ·  104 reviews
Jimmy Burns "in grass-green golfing trousers" is an expat American idler in Mexico, who unearths pre-Colombian artifacts, does small trucking jobs, and finds missing persons. Louise, a 90-pound stalker, hippies led by a murderous ex-con, and illegal Mayan excavators disrupt his laid-back lifestyle.
Kindle Edition, 274 pages
Published (first published 1991)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,401)
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David
Gringos isn’t exactly what I wanted from Charles Portis at this time. Yes, I realize Portis probably had his own literary agenda, but naturally I prefer mine: i.e., that he continue to write short, funny, meandering books about semi-enlightened rednecks. Gringos fits several of these bills if you want to quibble—and, as I’ve said before, you usually do—but its humor is a little more serious-minded than I wanted. I have the suspicion that all this rigmarole about crazy Americans trying to work ou ...more
Jeff Jackson
Charles Portis: the most underrated comic writer in America. This doesn't scale the heights of his masterwork DOG OF THE SOUTH, but it's enjoyable to accompany his eccentric characters as they drink in small town Mexican bars, trade notes on raiding Mayan tombs, track missing UFO experts through the jungle, and encounter hippie tribes awaiting the end of the world. There's a Robert Stone haze of menace floating around the edges of this tale and Pynchon-esque secret plots furtively winding throug ...more
Lars Guthrie
If you only want to read one Portis novel, make it, of course, ‘True Grit.’ Two, add ‘Norwood.’ Three, it’s ‘Gringos.’

Portis writes with an unassuming air. Nothing monumental going on, except perhaps with ‘True Grit.’ That tossed-off, effortless feeling is not so easy to produce, if you want it to come across with any sense of authenticity. Ask anyone who’s tried writing like that.

Ask Portis. Here’s the narrator of ‘Gringos,’ Jimmy Burns: ‘Writing is hard—it’s a form of punishment in schools, an
...more
James
It occurs to me, upon my most recent re-reading of this novel a few weeks ago, that this novel sort of works as a cross between Raiders of the Lost Ark (a movie I've seen maybe 45,000 times) and 2012 (a movie I did not see and have no intention of seeing, having already seen enough Roland Emmerich films to make my eyes bleed). But, you know, funny. Really really funny.

Also, this novel is great when you want to read random passages out loud to your friends' voice mail boxes. The only problem is t
...more
Dillon Strange
Another classic by the master. This book is a little larger in scope than his previous ones, but still classic Portis. Jimmy Burns is the hero, a wise cracking reformed thief of Mayan antiquities turned long haul trucker and finder of runaways. Here he's searching for a UFO obsessed crackpot friend gone missing in the Mexican jungle with a host of strange and wonderful characters in tow. A must read! Charles Portis is one of the greatest writers America has ever produced!
Adam
Cut from similar cloth as the author’s Dog in the South, a story of ex-patriots (American) living on the Guatemala/Mexico border, and they are a truly eccentric bunch. Plot elements are wispy (another quest for a missing person) and languid, the sense of the comic turns alternately ominous, and the sentences are almost nearly all perfect. His finely pitched sentence after sentence keeps you reading despite the meandering narrative, on strength of the writing alone. A Manson family/ Jonestown typ ...more
Laura
I wavered between a three and four star on this book, but settled on a four star since I would easily recommend the book to a friend. Rust and sweat wafts off the pages of Gringos. This novel makes an art form out of sleepy pacing, giving the reader a real feeling for the tempo of living in Mexico working as a 'guy with a truck' after 'retiring' from exploiting ancient ruin artifacts. Jimmy Burns, our quasi-reluctant hero, wades between a world of trashy, ex-pat Gringos and the Mexican jungle. H ...more
Sherrie
This is the 3rd Portis novel I've plowed through, 2 more to go. His prose is a little bit more 'filled out' than his earlier, most stripped- down style as seen in his first novels Norwood & True Grit - but it still 'reads easy' - my way of saying, I enjoyed the living f*ck out of it. Jimmy Burns is an American ex-pat living in Merida, Mexico - a former temple robber, Burns tries to stick to more honest work nowadays. Gringos is about simply a series of his adventures, from making deliveries ...more
Jeff Tucker
If Charles Portis wrote a grocery shopping list I would enjoy reading it. No one else writes quite like him. I do understand that he’s not for everyone. It takes a certain type of reader to appreciate his style and wit. He often seems to be toying with the reader. I loved ‘Gringos’. It was a little like ‘The Dog of the South’ but not as funny. It’s the story of Jimmy Burns and a group of expatriate Americans living in Merida, Mexico. Like his other books there’s road trips with strangers and sea ...more
Mark
I suspect that this is a brilliant novel. I want to reread it immediately, and not just because I liked it. No, because I didn't fully get it. But one problem with these Goodreads reviews is that you want to respond right away, while it's fresh and before you move on to half a dozen other things. And they want your response—all those irritating messages with so-called updates from your friends on their amazingly fast and copious reading lives ("Susie Q or Joe Blow has added 18 books"!—of course, ...more
Daniel
*** Mild Spoilers***

Charles Portis is the funniest American writer currently at work—I hope. Gringos, published in 1991, seems to be his last entrada, as Doc Flandin calls his voyage into the selva throughout the book. And while True Grit may be his best novel and Masters of Atlantis and The Dog of the South tied dead even for his funniest (or the funniest by anyone, anywhere), Gringos is my favorite.

I had the chance to teach the novel for a few years when I was teaching high-school AP Literatu
...more
Bro_Pair أعرف
Almost as good as Dog of the South, and thus probably Portis's second-best book. Stumbles slightly at the end. Slightly, surprisingly reactionary. But great.
Bud Smith
I wanna go to Mexico and join a cult.
Kevin
I normally Love Charles Portis, but Gringos didn't bowl me over. The wit is less evident, the characters still quirky, but slightly less wide-eyed and innocent, and therefore a bit less lovable than usual, but still likeable. The plot was the usual ramshackle affair centred around a cast of layabout slackers, odd balls, misfits, has-been's, and never-quite-were's. Hatching schemes and plans, abandoning them at every turn that might throw up an extra, unforeseen buck or two. Like all the good guy ...more
Paul
I've now read every Charles Portis novel there is to read. Portis, like Patrick O'Brian, is an author to be read again and again, but it's still sad there isn't anything new for his fans.

In an earlier review of Portis' The Dog of the South, I said this:
I read elsewhere that The Dog of the South is part of a trilogy, with Masters of Atlantis and Gringos. I read Masters of Atlantis last year; now that I've read Dog of the South I see the theme that ties them together, a search for meaning in the s
...more
Aaron Arnold
When I first finished the book I was vaguely disappointed. True Grit is sui generis, but of the "spiritual trinity" of Norwood, The Dog of the South, and this one, I thought the picaresque structure, the easygoing plain-spoken main character, the straight-faced jokes, and the easy asides and insights in Gringos seemed to have the least impact on me. The whole book is as laid-back as its protagonist, a Portis stand-in named Jimmy Burns living in Mexico who gets tangled up in a scheme to rescue a ...more
Josh
Charles Portis, the author of True Grit, writes here about American expatriates in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico through the first-person narration of Louisiana native Jimmy Burns. (Without meaning to, I realize I have read four novels in a row about Americans living in other countries.) Burns enjoys his loose, simple life in Mérida funded by multiple odd jobs and his social life centering around the misfit group of American expats and the German widow of an archeologist who rent, or used to rent, roo ...more
Wes Moerbe
Portis writes the way I wish I could. Gringos may be his most charming work. His charactors are absurd, but very familiar. The protagonist, Jimmy, must navigate relaxed attitude towards...everything in Mexico, while finding an American lost among a gang of hippies drawn to a homicidal guru. Of course they are in Mexico to usher in the end of the world at a Mayan Temple(a timely read, given the 21st of May 2011 hijinks). But don't for a second think this some effort to pile-on the Mayan calendar ...more
Chris
Charles Portis' slim body of work (five novels between 1966 and 1991) concludes with this hefty novel of Americans living in Mexico, working reluctantly and only when immediate deprivation requires it.

Jimmy Burns used to have a pretty good thing working as an archeological digger (and antiques seller), but now, he's happy to take it real nice and easy, maybe pick up a few bucks looking for missing people ("Shining a flashlight in people's faces," as he puts it). Jimmy's got plenty of fellow Gri
...more
Adam Rabiner
My sense is that Gringos is a guys' novel, like the work of Cormac McCarthy, and I'm curious to see if my wife will get past the first 25 pages. It lacks deep character development and a strong plot. These aren't necessarily criticisms. I found it a quick and enjoyable read. The writing is brisk and Portis writes wittily about a caste of misfit American expatriates living and working in Merida, Mexico: "hippies", archeological professors, UFO hunters, retirees, new age types, grave robbers, etc. ...more
Eraserhead
Hilarious, witty and written with shocking clarity. A strange, mad-cap romp thru the jungles of Mexico (and the surrounding borders), unearthing Aztec ruins, forgotten cities, oddball conspiracies and UFO theorists.

As far as plot goes, Jimmy Burns travels thru life as an aloof and facetious observer. He is essentially an everyman character who keeps his hilarious musings private. He drifts from one vignette to another, eventually getting married when a female friend moves into his gifted alumin
...more
Downward
Gringos is a likeable enough story that meanders through a handful of plots, most of which are difficult to sink your teeth into. There's an insubstantiallness to this story that is largely forgiven because our devil-may-care narrator is so cool that we kind of just feel like hanging out with him while he does stuff. His nonchalance disallows any emotional power to the narrative, or any disbelief, even when the story focuses on dying people (a stalwart of narratives seeking emotional power) or t ...more
Tom
For whatever reason, this book did not really engage me. I nodded off several times while reading it. I think the main reason was that you did not get a great feel for any of the characters. Many of the characters seemed to have quirks, but with all the names getting mentioned, often times the gringos all blended together. I never felt an understanding of why Jimmy Burns, the protagonist, was embarking on some of his expeditions.

One part which did impress me was that Jimmy Burns was likeable as
...more
Jeanne Murphy
This is a well- written book with some interesting characters. Unfortuately it doesn't seem to have much of a plot! The story meandered about for 121 pages, at which point I got tired of waiting for a story line to emerge from the thicket of newly-introduced characters and scenes, & gave it up. "True Grit" is one of my favorite novels; "Gringos" is really not up to that standard.
Itasca Community Library
Jeff says:

The best part of this book is getting to know the quirky characters living together in the expatriate community near the Yucatan, as well as their many reasons for being there such as the couple intent on finding evidence of prehistoric space travel or the man who came down to solve his gastrointestinal problem. It makes me long to take a road trip down to Mexico or to live in a little town where you seemingly know everyone and their different traits and eccentricities.
Jeff
Jimmy Burns is an expat, ex-Marine, ex pre-Colombian antiquities dealer or tomb raider, depending on who you ask, living the simple life in a community in Mexico in a town called Merida. At least he’s trying to make a peaceful living doing small haul jobs with his Chevy truck until he gets caught up trying to find a young runaway and a friend who has gone missing.

The best part of this book is getting to know the quirky characters living together in the expatriate community near the Yucatan, as w
...more
Gabriel Oak
Portis is a wonderfully insightful and funny critic of American culture, and the expatriate community, such as it is, in southern Mexico offers a perfect case study for his critical eye. Gringos works best as a satire of expatriate novels like The Sun Also Rises and Under the Volcano, with their primitivizing representations of exotic locales. The plot doesn't drive forward as aggressively or coherently as in True Grit, but does share with that novel a strong narrative voice. Good stuff.
Mark
Unique? Unclassifiable? What kind of novel is GRINGOS exactly? Imagine if John D. MacDonald had re-read a bunch of Hemingway, and then had Travis McGee, a few screws loose after his long career of getting his head whacked, settle down in Mexico (a country both McGee and MacDonald had spent a good bit of time in). Maybe GRINGOS really is the last Travis novel. Whatever it is, it contains a collection of truly bizarre characters; what turns out, highly unexpectedly, to be a very scary adventure st ...more
Colleen
Excellent tale about living in a small town in Mexico in the 1970s and experiencing UFO watchers, freeloading hippies, crazy archeologists, and the usual bogus writers and scam artists. All these characters come together when a UFO watcher gets lost on the Guatemala border and the odd job guy sets out with a bunch of other people to track him down. Well drawn characters, thrills, guns, sarcastic humor. It's got everything for a good yarn.
Timothy Riley
I wanted to read this book because it is set in the Yucatan where I've been several times. Much of the book is set amongst Mayan ruins and the author knows the basics about Mayan culture and weaves it into his story. This was a weird book-by the guy who wrote True Grit. The Gringos are hardly living the dream in the Yucatan but out of trailers and old pick ups doing odd jobs or surviving on their pensions. There is a dark sense of humor here that I enjoyed. I like the part that when it comes to ...more
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Charles McColl Portis was born in 1933, in El Dorado Arkansas and was raised in various towns in southern Arkansas. He served in the Marine Corps during the Korean war and after his discharge in 1955 attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He graduated with a degree in journalism in 1958.

His journalistic career included work at the Arkansas Gazette before he moved to New York to work
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More about Charles Portis...
True Grit The Dog of the South Norwood Masters of Atlantis Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany

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