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3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  1,452 ratings  ·  206 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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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
Lars Guthrie
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
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
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
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
Mar 14, 2010 J rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
An Odd1
Jan 31, 2014 An Odd1 rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Randy Wise
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
"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
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
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 t ...more
Ned Mozier
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.
Sep 26, 2011 Karen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
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
Recommended by a stranger who follows me on Twitter. What a strange little book. Or, not that strange, since it seems to be the blueprint for many if not most Coen Bros. movies [minus the really violent parts]. I don't know whether True Grit [the novel, which Portis also wrote] is quite this goofy but I'd be interested to find out.
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
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
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.
Robert Poor
"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
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.
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!
William Randolph
Very funny stuff. The cadence of the characters' speech never failed to induce hearty chuckles. It's light reading, to be sure, but light reading of the highest quality.
This is my first Charles Portis book, and I really enjoyed it. I want to give it 3 1/2 stars, but alas, not possible on Goodreads. This novella ushers you into the life of Norwood, a likable loser, from Ralph, Texas. We go on a trip with him to New York City (where he looks for a guy who owes him $70) and back during which he has many adventures and meets others living on the fringes of society. Fasten your seat belts!

I learned about Norwood from this Washington Post article on the best audio b
Nancy  W'f
Nov 05, 2014 Nancy W'f rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of a certain type of americana
I don't know if this was Charles Portis' take on On The Road or some kind of experiment, but it was certainly one of the duller books I've ever read. I am giving it two stars only because it did have some very funny paragraphs and some good descriptions of the American landscape in a certain era. Other than that, the title character is a dull and confused man who seems to run into a lot of dull and confused people. Maybe I just don't get the gestalt of Charles Portis, I don't know. I wasn't craz ...more
3.5 stars

So whilst reading The Fry Chronicles recently, Stephen Fry quotes a theory he has on the success of sitcoms and the need for them to have a "ball". He likens them to a tennis match and says that if there is no tennis ball, then it is just a couple of people moving around a lot without any real purpose, and for anyone to gain anything from it, there really needs to be a ball.
This is a perfect way to describe this book. There is no ball. It's the random misadventures of Norwood Pratt. I
Joseph S
Fantastic piece of characterization, on a small-scale Americana-esq adventure. This story is interesting but it does stagnate here and there, in terms of shewing away consequences. Norwood is either the luckiest man alive or Portis simply chose to do away with the negative feedback loop many stories are prone to. It's his first novel, it's short, and it certainly suffers from some technique issues, such as the time jumps from night to day or place to place being rather jarring. At any rate, it i ...more
I agree with other reviewers who make the point that "True Grit" is the penultimate Charles Portis work, so if you only read one Portis then that would be the one. However, that said... if you've seen both of the "True Grit" movies, feel satisfied that you get that story, then I'd advise you to read Norwood. Because "Norwood" is a delicious novel—not set in the Wild West, but contemporary to his mid-twentieth-century reality—and it is so colorful, and so entertaining. It has a midget, and an Old ...more
Upon reading recommendations for Portis' novels from Donna Tartt and Bill Hader, I picked up a book I had never considered reading. (Actually saw True Grit for the first time just recently--both versions. Liked them both). This was a good, funny, poignant book. A little raggedy around the edges--didn't wrap up neatly or "go anywhere" in particular--and that was just fine. Memorable, quirky characters; strong absurd-yet-realistic dialogue. I'll read more Portis. (The Dog of the South is on tap fr ...more
Smart, witty dialogue with an entertaining "road" story, Norwood follows the travels of the titular character, first to his home in Texas (from CA), and then on a journey from Texarkana to NY and back. The book's title, Norwood, is the first name of the titular character, Norwood Pratt, and reveals a sense of informality that pervades the book. Portis doesn't take any of his characters too seriously, but while the journey is itself a light-hearted affair, the characters carry with them an authen ...more
Portis's first novel was not quite up to the level of True Grit, but it is, perhaps, unfair expect every book the man wrote to be an American classic. This book, to the extent is has a plot, follows Norwood, a young ex-marine, on a cross-country trip from Texas to New York City and back on a search for a friend and the 70 bucks his friend owes him. There are some laugh-out-loud moments involving a young woman, a midget, and a chicken, all of whom Norwood befriends along the way, most of the humo ...more
Tyler Jones
Norwood is one of those rare books will leave its reader feeling either enraptured or cheated. There is no middle ground. You will either find you have a new addition to the handful of books you count as your personal favourites, or you will feel like you have wasted your time and there is no telling into which camp you, gentle reader, will fall into.

Intricate plotting; fully developed interior lives of characters; a detailed examination of the human condition- you will find none these things i
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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
More about Charles Portis...
True Grit The Dog of the South Masters of Atlantis Gringos Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany

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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.” 15 likes
“Do they pay you by the hour or what? Norwood said to the monocled peanut face.” 3 likes
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