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3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,703 Ratings  ·  240 Reviews
Out of the American Neon Desert of Roller Dromes, chili parlors, The Grand Ole Opry, and girls who want "to live in a trailer and play records all night" comes ex-marine and troubadour Norwood Pratt. Sent on a mission to New York by Grady Fring, the Kredit King, Norwood has visions of "speeding across the country in a late model car, seeing all the sights." Instead, he get ...more
Paperback, Overlook Press, 190 pages
Published August 1st 1999 by Peter Mayer Publishing (first published 1966)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Glenn Russell
Mar 05, 2016 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Charles Portis, born in 1933 in the state of Arkansas, one-time Marine sergeant, is an American author best known for his classic Western novel True Grit. Such a darn good writer who created eccentric characters and comic plots.

Part of the American Vintage Contemporaries series published back in the 1980s, this road novel by Charles Portis features 23-year old guitar pluckin’ ex-marine Norwood Pratt who lives (if you call this living) way down in the grit of rural East Texas. For me, when it co
Feb 20, 2011 David rated it liked it
Shelves: portishead
I agonized over whether to give Norwood three or four stars—which tells me three things: (1) I’m prone to exaggeration; (2) I really need to get a life; and (3) Goodreads should add half-star ratings instead of worrying about retarded mascot contests and adding mostly pointless Facebookish features to the site which inevitably cause that damnable Alice picture/Bertrand Russell quote to show up (again!). Get your act together, Goodreads. This site is too big now to be run out of somebody’s garage ...more
May 06, 2015 Melki rated it really liked it
Here's an eerie coinkydink - I finished this almost exactly a year to the day that I finished The Dog of the South. Even stranger, two years ago at this time, I was reading True Grit. I guess there's just something about the month of May that makes me yearn for a Portis tale.

This one, Portis's first novel, reminded me SO much of The Dog of the South. Our hero, Norwood Pratt, could have been the prototype for Dog's Raymond Earl Midge. Both men are earnest and plain spoken, single-minded in their
M.J. Johnson
Sep 11, 2015 M.J. Johnson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
What can I say about Norwood? I simply adored it. Portis writes the most uncluttered prose imaginable and employs a deceptively simple style, yet he has the eye of a poet. The writing flows with such ease it can sometimes deceive the reader into thinking that the author doesn’t seem to be working very hard at all. Simple stream of consciousness stuff you may think - think again! Portis’ use of language is masterly, the characterisations are wonderful and the dialogues his cast enter into, sublim ...more
Lars Guthrie
Jan 29, 2011 Lars Guthrie rated it really liked it
This is the best one to read if you only read one other Portis novel besides ‘True Grit.’ Everyone should read ‘True Grit.’

In a charming first novel, Portis establishes his mastery of language, in particular the Texarkana vernacular, of well-chosen detail that goes beyond apparent mundane triviality and really captures the American ambience as well as the human condition, and of pitch-perfect dialogue.

Norwood Pratt—another one of Portis’s strengths is names—is the title character, a poor, ignora
Jan 02, 2013 Brad rated it it was amazing
Shelves: just-badass
Phenomenal. I don't really know what to say. I've been struggling to find a novel lately that completely captured my attention and pulled me fully into its world. This one did the trick. Norwood hooked me from the first page and never let go. The characters are quirky without being stupidly over the top. The dialogue is wonderfully Southern without being overwrought. It's a perfect little novel you really could read in a single sitting. It took me two sittings.

One thing that struck me about thi
Dec 18, 2011 Jim rated it it was amazing
I read this book in three sittings, the longest while getting some shading work done a large side piece. The three things that stand out is the specificity of the language, the dryness of the humor, and the protagonist's heroic transformation in spite of making bad decisions at every turn. Norwood conducts himself with propriety, which, sad to say, makes him something of a throwback, yet one would be hard-pressed to call him good natured. In life, I run from these kinds of people: guided by othe ...more
Jan 02, 2016 Karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, 2015
Another comic highlight. Portis is wonderful, inimitable. He can tell a story about nothing like no one else I know. George Saunders has inherited some of this, but Saunders can be a little more brittle and mannered, his characters and situations more surreal. Portis is interested in all the little details of ordinary, not-always-so-bright folks struggling with their drives and limitations, their idees fixes and confusion about the world. Like many of his other books (True Grit, Dog of the South ...more
Jul 13, 2011 Joseph rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I probably shouldn't think about this book in comparison to True Grit, but I can't shake the image of Mattie Ross when I think about Norwood Pratt. Both share the same matter-of-fact practicality, and the same bull-headed urge to force the world to conform to their own preconceptions. If Mattie is a little wittier and a little wiser, it doesn't change the fact that they're both cut from the same cloth.

I greatly enjoyed Norwood's quirky cast of characters, but felt let down by the story, which ne
May 31, 2016 Alvin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun, quirky romp with highly amusing dialect dialogue, but not all that much else.
Mar 14, 2010 J rated it really liked it
Shelves: recommend
Charles Portis' Norwood is a strange, strange, little endearing story about a guy named Norwood going on a mini-adventure from Ralph, Texas to New York City and back. Along the way he meets a midget, wins a girl's heart, and steals a fortune telling chicken. I don't really know what to make of it and I can't explain why, but it made me literally laugh out loud at some points. It shouldn't be good, really. But it is thoroughly enjoyable. Now I have to face the dilemma of which of his other novels ...more
I am glad to have read this, the debut novel by Charles Portis, since it gives me a greater appreciation for the genius of "True Grit," his second book. By that I mean that "Norwood" is nothing particularly special, making the follow-up stand out even more. It's not that Portis doesn't know his way around a sentence - he most certainly does - but rather that I found the purposefully aimless quality of our protagonist (the Norwood of the title) increasingly grating. We sense the writer flexing hi ...more
Jeff Jackson
Jun 09, 2015 Jeff Jackson rated it really liked it
Slim debut by Charles Portis. Some deem this his distilled best, but for me it's a run-up for fuller and more satisfying works to come like DOG OF THE SOUTH. Imagine Flannery O'Connor stripped of the Catholicism and violence and you're partway there. Portis's sense of humor is gentler, but just as strange.
An Odd1
Jan 31, 2014 An Odd1 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fun
Norwood Pratt, ex-Marine, mechanic at the Nipper Oil station, fed-up, throws a breakfast sausage at sister Vernell's layabout new husband ex-Army Yankee Bill Bird, packs his guitar, and takes $50 from fast-talker Grady Fring, to drive one car, towing another, from Ralph, Texas to New York City. There he can collect $75 debt from fellow Marine Joe William Reese. But passenger Yvonne Phillips, "long tall redbone girl .. wearing a shiny green party dress with shoulder straps, and some open-toed sho ...more
Feb 21, 2016 Bfisher rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
If character development is your thing, this book will not do for you. By the end of the book, I was quite certain that Norwood Pratt will be essentially unchanged at 75. I suspect that is one of the main points of the book.

This is a great road story about a Texarkanan Odysseus. Some of the prose is memorable: "...they had moved a lot, back and forth along U.S. Highway 82 in the oil fields and cotton patches between Stamps, Arkansas, and Hooks, Texas. There was something Mr. Pratt dearly loved a
Randy Wise
Mar 09, 2011 Randy Wise rated it liked it
Charles Portis' first novel, Norwood, is a rambling adventure story about a countryfied Arkansas ex-Marine, Norwood Pratt, who goes on a journey to NY to deliver two cars and find his Marine buddy who owes him money. Along the way he meets the world's second shortest midget, steals the college-educated chicken Joann and finds love on a bus with a girl named Rita Lee. It's the characters that really make this story work. There isn't much in the way of plot (and Portis intended it that way). There ...more
Chas Andrews
Jun 26, 2011 Chas Andrews rated it liked it
"Norwood" is about the most absurdest travel literature that you'll read but also probably one of the best. In it Norwood Pratt is a country-bumpkin former Marine who settles back in the small town of Ralph, Texas. He spends his days working on cars in a little gas station that only pays him enough to survive. On that note he has plans on making it to New York City to hunt down a fellow Marine, Joe Williams, who owes him $70. He stays in a house with his sister Vernell who just recently married ...more
Aaron Arnold
Mar 27, 2012 Aaron Arnold rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2011
Another hilarious picaresque novel about a loser pointlessly careening across the country. Since I read The Dog of the South first, even though Norwood was actually his first book I kept thinking "gee, this reminds of The Dog of the South", but this is a little different. It seems to have a little more loose energy in it, more reminiscent of On the Road. "It's about the journey, not the destination" is a good way to summarize how it comes across, since there's much more traveling in this book an ...more
May 25, 2009 Guy rated it liked it
Deze bescheiden cultklassieker uit 1966 stond al even op het leeslijstje. Portis (1933) schreef slechts vijf romans, waarvan Norwood de eerste is. Het is door en door Amerikaans, onderscheidt zich door z’n aparte, wat absurde humor en nadruk op gesproken Engels. Dat typisch Amerikaanse manifesteert zich niet via seks, geweld en oppervlakkigheid, maar door de Americana, de reis door de buik van het land, het Amerika van Flannery O’Connor en Mark Twain, een wereld die het midden lijkt te houden tu ...more
Ned Mozier
Feb 28, 2014 Ned Mozier rated it liked it
Portis' first novel, kind of hilarious in a low key kind of way. Good prose but basically a road story about a slightly above average Texas ordinary workingman in the 50's. A short book, good characters including an obese midget and manipulative shyster who sends Norwood on a wild goose chase. Not sure if I'll read Portis again, though.... would read True Grit by my memory contaminated by John Wayne and Jeff Bridges.
Jared Millet
I put all of Charles Portis's novels in my Goodreads queue after watching the documentary about him on the True Grit Blu-Ray. Starting with the first, Norwood comes across as the hillbilly On the Road. While I got really bored with Kerouac, Portis was able to keep me hooked in, despite the fact that Norwood's journey is so much smaller in scope. There really isn't anything resembling a plot, or even a character arc, but the momentum of the book and Portis's no-nonsense language sneak up on you u ...more
May 09, 2009 Katie rated it liked it
3.5 really. Cute. Quirky. Parsimonious comedic storytelling -- Portis has an ear for colloquial dialogue and an eye for setting a scene in a few telling details. But for me there wasn't enough meat on this novel to make it essential reading. As someone else points out, Norwood Pratt often reminded me of Norville Barnes (from the Coen brothers' beloved film The Hudsucker Proxy, though this Nor-tragic-hero isn’t lucky enough to have any sort of accidental brush with fame and fortune). I guess that ...more
Brent Legault
Jun 06, 2012 Brent Legault rated it really liked it
Portis is so funny and strange. His style has a teasing smile under its every word. This book didn't break any new ground and it should have been about a hundred pages longer than it was (I rarely say that about any book) and I'm not nearly as besotted with it as Roy Blount Jr. was, but it cleared the way for his greater efforts (Dog of the South, Masters of Atlantis) and our world has been bettered because of it.
Jun 21, 2016 Pete rated it it was amazing
been on my rear end with a herniated disc for a week so i turned to my version of comfort food. i can see a criticism of portis that experiences his books as really well-turned shaggy dog stories -- a boob wanders off in the world, bumps into things, wanders home. that's more or less what happens in all of his novels, with some tweaks to the formula (although i haven't read Gringos yet). but that's all that really happens in the odyssey. what portis shares with homer is the pure beauty of his la ...more
Tom Romig
Dec 22, 2015 Tom Romig rated it it was amazing
On his journey from Ralph, Texas to New York City and back, Norwood Pratt encounters the most outlandish, most comical cast of characters you've ever met. Charles Portis is incessantly entertaining, one of the few literally laugh-out-loud novelists. Here's his droll take on Bill Bird, the irritating husband of Norwood's sister Vernell:

Norwood did not like the sound of Bill Bird's voice. Bill Bird was originally from some place like Michigan and Norwood found his brisk Yankee vowels offensive. T
May 28, 2016 Alpharius rated it really liked it
Shelves: charles-portis
When it comes to vintage Portis, this is as classic as it gets. Charles Portis's first novel, Norwood, is a resounding triumph of comedic picaresque literature. It's an electric picture of '60s America, with plenty of laughs on the way. Ex-Marine Norwood Pratt us sent on a mission - take a trailer-load of cars to New York - by konman Grady Fring the Kredit King. While Kerouac-ing his way down the Road, Pratt ditches the cars and armed only with his trusty-dusty guitar, bums his way to the Big Ap ...more
Robert Poor
Jul 12, 2014 Robert Poor rated it really liked it
"Norwood" was the first novel published by Charles Portis, who is best known for writing "True Grit." What a wonderful and odd little book. Clocking in at a little over 100 pages, "Norwood" is probably best described as a novella.

First published in 1966, "Norwood" laconically describes the life and times of ex-marine, "shade tree" mechanic and would-be Louisiana Hayride country music star Norwood Pratt as he travels from Ralph, Texas through the American South to NYC to deliver two apparently s
Mar 31, 2015 Joshua rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2015
I'm going to re-read a bunch of cult favorite Charles Portis in 2015 and have started with his short first novel, Norwood, a fiendishly funny book that is part sincere, part outlandish and charming as all get out. In fact, this remains one of the funniest books I've ever read, as the title character gets into all kinds of odd situations on his journey from Ralph, texas to New York City. Published in the mid 1960s, Portis perfectly captures the quirky ways of many, many people as they interact wi ...more
Apr 24, 2008 Joe rated it really liked it
Vintage Arkansas deadpan. Veers into Werner Herzog/Harmony Korine territory when Norwood boards a Memphis-bound bus with a midget and a chicken. Not as great as Dog Of The South, but not much is. Portis is a genius.
Jun 10, 2010 Jeff rated it it was amazing
The funniest book I've read in, oh, fifteen years. Also, the way Portis writes--so clean, direct, and perfectly chosen, well, everything--is kind of amazing. You should read this book right this second!
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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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“Listen, here's what I'd like to do: I'd like to live in a trailer and play records all night.” 16 likes
“Do they pay you by the hour or what? Norwood said to the monocled peanut face.” 5 likes
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