The Dog of the South
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The Dog of the South

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  1,928 ratings  ·  318 reviews
The narrator is Ray Midge, down-at-the-heels Southerner after his 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." The fussbudget is assailed by tropical storms, grifters, hippies, car trouble, and candy wrappers at high speed "wind came up through the floor hole in such a way tha...more
Paperback, 246 pages
Published April 1st 1999 by Overlook (first published 1979)
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David
When I say something is funny and you say something is funny, I'm usually not sure if our funnies are congruous—or even related, really. For instance, I've been told (by 'them') that The Hangover was a great American comedy, but I'll be honest with you... there were more honest-to-goshness laughs in Ingmar Bergman's Autumn Sonata for me. Like in that ripsnorting scene where Liv Ullmann's crippled daughter crawls out of her bedroom in a crime of melodrama so egregious that even drag queens would...more
Melki
What a weird and twisty experience, being inside the head of Raymond Earl Midge. His thoughts are both deep and shallow, and tend to roam all over the place, but for now, he is a man on a mission. His wife Norma has just run off with her ex-husband, Dupree. They've taken Ray's credit cards AND his beloved Ford Torino. Now, he's headed off to find them, packing a .38 Colt Cobra, AND his wife's pain medication.

Norma never went anywhere without her lower-back medicine, and yet she had forgotten it...more
Joseph
The Arkansas Traveller reimagined as a cosmic fool. One of the most underrated American novels, but that's those New York Smarties for you. This will put Shakespeare in the sh*thouse.
René
Ray Midge has constructed a sheltered existence for himself, structured and predictable, and though his attempts at getting a college degree have been stymied by his incapacity to follow a single field of study through, he’s not worried and regales himself with reading and drinking with his friend Guy Dupree. His world is punctured, though, when the same Dupree, fleeing from the law after proffering death threats on the president, heads down to Mexico with Ray’s credit card, car, and wife Norma....more
Alejandro
A test of patience? A proof of silliness? Pick your favorite. Certainly after that I read the excellent novel True Grit (See my review about that book HERE) I decided that I wanted to read more books by Charles Portis. I even do some research about their books and while I found that all of them have an interesting premise, I had to choose one of them, and so, my pick was this one. Well, first of all, the title The Dog of the South is very misleading if not a bad choice of title, just like in Har...more
Adam
When young slacker and military history aficionado Ray Midge has his wife and Ford Torino stolen by his best friend, he heads south of the border determined, whatever the cost, to get that car back.

The Dog of the South is a near masterpiece of the redneck quest novel written by a top practitioner of the genre. The personalities, the dialogue, the episodic adventures, the unflagging dry wit--whether you want it to or not, all of this is likely to come alive as a bizarre alternate universe in whic...more
Allan MacDonell
Do you revel in self-loathing and megalomania? Do you have utter confidence in your superior code of behavior, even as your decisions and actions heap calamity upon misery and are assailed by all who come in contact with you? Do you take pride in your unassailable morals and ethics, despite ample, mounting evidence of corrupt motives and murky intentions?

You too can be the hero of one of the greatest road-trip novels in American literature!

Charles Portis is a treasure. True Grit is the fantastic...more
Christopher
This is a really fun, well written picaresque in the spirit of Huckleberry Finn, the story of a young man on a quest from Arkansas to Belize, tracking his wife who R-U-N-N-O-F-T-ed with his car and her lover. One may recall the wonderful voice of Mattie Ross in Portis's True Grit; Ray Midge is the same sort of wonderful.
Adam
Deadpan comic picaresque that seems to take from Cervantes, Twain, Jane Bowles and Beckett in equal measures and foreshadows Joy Williams and Sam Lipsyte. The bizarre dialogue and characters seem to overrun the plot, the comedy turns ominous at certain points, and nothing ends in any predictable way. This is a rare novel without a bad sentence. (Good thing since it takes Portis about ten years to write a novel.)
Brian
After reading The Dog of the South (my first Portis), I have to say, I like Charles Portis, I like his language, I like his grammar, I like the way he sees things and puts it down on paper... and I mean he sees so many things, even little non-essential, but essential things. The way he writes is the way I go through life. It's kind of like this:

I'll be sitting down at a conference table for 30 people but it will be just me and my client hanging on to the end of the mammoth meeting alter and he w...more
Aaron Arnold
This is one of those books that will make you shake your head in wonder at how much contemporary fiction is dull, lifeless trash, just because it's so subtle and hilarious that to admire its virtues is to bring the flaws of others into sharp contrast by implication. Portis is really clever about a lot of the things he does in this book, from the dialogue to the characters to the plot, but one thing that I didn't get until about halfway through the book was how much attention he paid to its struc...more
Lars Guthrie
‘True Grit,’ 1968; ‘The Dog of the South,’ 1979. Why the eleven year gap? I think Charles Portis doesn’t like being famous.

And maybe he also feared getting out from under the weight of the astounding accomplishment of ‘True Grit.’ As it is, he can’t quite drop one of Mattie Ross’s singular mannerisms, the exclamatory sentence. It makes the voice of the first person narrator (another ‘True Grit’ trademark), the hapless Raymond Midge, echo the feisty and schoolmarmish Matty a bit.

‘What a sweet jo...more
Chris
When I finished True Grit, I knew I would read more from Portis; having finished Dog of the South, I now know I will read all of Portis. Narrator Ray Midge is a bumbling, frustrating loser (unaccomplished, undegreed, cuckolded, and abandoned at 26) who proves entirely unable to determine what will and will not be of interest to the reader, so there are some frustrations in reading this chronological but shapeless and undifferentiated narrative. If you can accept the unnecessary incidents and the...more
Mark Van Aken Williams
Celebrate the fact that Charles Portis’ novels are no longer out of print and hidden in used book stores. If I could remember whose summer reading list I got this title from, I would go kiss her or him on the lips. The Dog of the South defines the identity of my generation’s time, the way Wallace Stegner did for my father’s. This novel abides by the rules of popular fiction, but also captures the breadth, majesty and complexity of our people. Portis does so with a cast of flamboyant characters w...more
Mary Lou
This is not just one of the best books I've read in a while, it is one of the best books I've ever read.

Raymond Midge's wife, Norma, leaves him to run off with his former co-worker, Guy Dupree. Midge is a 26-year-old fellow who has quit his job on the copy desk at the newspaper to go back to college. He decides to follow the lovers and attempt to get his car back (the Torino they took with them). They also took his American Express card, and once the statement arrives, he decides to track them u...more
Joey
I didn't know what to expect from Portis, knowing only two things about him before I started The Dog of the South:

1) He wrote the book that became True Grit, which I must admit I've never seen because I hate John Wayne, knowing only his ridiculously jingoistic war movies.

2) An avid reader friend of mine, the same one who gave me this book, begins frothing at the mouth at the very mention of Portis, proclaiming his genius in much the same fashion that The Dog of the South's Dr. Reo Symes canoni...more
Amanda Morgan
I loved this damn book. I can't think of a book I've read whose characters were so true to themselves, so...I don't know, so inevitable. Charles Portis, where have you been all my life?
Paul
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 superficial Americana of small-time grifters, oddball misfits, and seekers after truth. These novels, and the characters in them, come out of the small ads you used to see in the back pages of magazines like Men's Life and True, and still see in magazine...more
bookczuk
At about third of the way through this book I had no problem at all seeing why Norma left Ray. The big question in my mind was why did she ever marry him? But kept reading, because as annoying as Ray is, the author Charles Portis is great.

This tale is quite different from True Grit, though it does involve oddball characters thrown together on a journey. Only here, the characters, while well drawn, were not particularly likable, or at least not by me. You wouldn't get John Wayne to play a role...more
Ryan
I am completely shocked at not only how stupid this book is but how many people on Goodreads give it 4 or 5 stars. Even if some people rated it “middle of the road,” I could find that understandable – but how is there this much discrepancy? I was excited to read other Portis books after absolutely loving True Grit – it had a great plot, a great narrator, explored history, brought in religion and philosophies with life: I feel like there is NONE of that in Dog of the South. The narrator seems to...more
Kurt
Singularly the funniest book I have ever read and one whose success I was able to contribute something to. When it came out in 1979 it received unjustifiably little attention for the author of True Grit, a national bestseller, which says something about America's relations with its humorists, and fizzled in the marketplace. Save at the Madison Avenue Bookshop, where we hand sold books and made it a bestseller. Two of my customers, Sam Shepard and Robert Benton, would cite the book when the New Y...more
Gloria
I'm not even sure where to start on this one.
*sigh*
Okay ... jumping in:

First person narrative can be tough to pull off. I think Portis does a credible job here. I have to give him that. And his style is interesting-- funny in so many places where you don't expect it to be. Little unexpected gifts of a chuckle in his descriptions or dialogue.
So, I can't demean his writing.

But, admittedly, I had to literally draaaaaaag myself through the last half of this book (and the first half wasn't read at br...more
Rebekkila
Sometimes when I look inside the front cover of a book to see what else an author has written I get a preconceived notion about the book. I saw this author had also written True Grit and was expecting some kind of outlaw or western book. Turns out that it was neither. This was a story about a man whose co-worker took off to Mexico with his wife and his car, so he head South of the Border to get his car back.
I liked the book on so many levels. The writing reminded me of Robert B. Parker but th...more
Carolyn (in SC) C234D
I read this about six years ago and don't remember specifics, so I'll go by what I noted back then. The interesting main character, Ray Midge, is a 26-year-old who is still a student in Arkansas. He now is after his wife, who took off in his Ford Torino with another guy, heading south. The first half of the book was quite funny; Ray is a great character. One of his idiosyncracies is to drink only from the left side of a mug--fewer mouths would have been on it. The second half bogged down a bit w...more
Michael Batz
Gifted to me by an English professor friend with a taste for adventure stories, this wound up as one of the best books I read last year. It manages to be absurd and funny without losing the heft and emotional tug of a man who goes searching for what he lost only to become lost himself. The tone is not unlike Confederacy of Dunces, though I think it's much gentler and more sympathetic to its very flawed protagonist. The language is loose but very specific, and even as the narrative goes off the r...more
Peter Fortune
Dog of the South (1979) is Charles Portis’s wry novel about life, love, and loss in modern America. Raymond E. Midge is an Arkansan with a mission. Norma, his wife, has run off with her ex-husband, Guy Dupree, who is fleeing charges for threatening the President’s life (all a joke, Guy says). Guy’s lawyer, Jack Wilkie, is a multitalented lawyer and bail bondsman. Norma and Guy have taken Ray’s car and his credit cards. Following the credit charges, Ray tracks their Norma and Guy and sets out to...more
B. Rule
Portis is a very funny writer with a great ear for dialogue and an eye for that special brand of eccentricity that flourishes in the South. The plot of the book is an afterthought and a scaffolding for the character work that is the chief delight of this book. Portis really gets at the jabbering, logorrheic nature of certain varieties of the American dream, the sort of seedy, low-rent hustler version of the Million Dollar Scheme. All of the characters are caught up in their own ceaselessly flowi...more
Steve
Anyone who has wondered at the archaic, flowery, slightly off-kilter dialogue in the Coen brother's film adaptation of Portis' True Grit has had a glimpse into the unique genius of Charles Porter. Here, as with most of his work, there's not a lot of plot or particularly extensive character development. The pure pleasure of reading Portis is watching him play with the language. There are great, laugh evoking lines on nearly every page:

"The kind of people I know now don’t have barbecues, Mama. Th...more
David Hartzheim
Charles Portis, author of True Grit, is a master of understated mirth. The Dog of the south takes the reader on a joyride of misadventure in a vehicle with all parts bandaged. Ray Midge, an easy-going southerner, finds not only has his wife run off with another man, and a baboon of a man at that, but she's taken his American Express card, one of his guns and his pristine Ford Torino. The chase is on. No GPS for Ray; he's got credit card bills to show him the way. A store here, a motel there, he'...more
Eric Smith
"If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off." Anton Checkov

In this book the gun does not go off, nor does the title have anything to do with the plot, nor are any of the characters likable, although most are funny and all are odd. What we have in this book is a novel consisting of humor for novelists, in fact, it is a compilation of funny bits aimed directly at writers. There is a gun, is is packed and smugg...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...more
More about Charles Portis...
True Grit Norwood Masters of Atlantis Gringos Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany

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“The kind of people I know now don’t have barbecues, Mama. They stand up alone at nights in small rooms and eat cold weenies. My so-called friends are bums. Many of them are nothing but rats. They spread T.B. and use dirty language. They’re wife-beaters and window peepers and night crawlers and dope fiends. They have running sores on the backs of their hands that never heal. They peer up from cracks in the floor with their small red eyes and wait for chances.” 2 likes
“As for his height, I would put it at no more than five feet nine inches — he being fully erect, out of his monkey crouch — and yet he brazenly put down five feet eleven on all forms and applications … He wore glasses, the lenses thick and greasy, which distorted the things of the world into unnatural shapes. I myself have never needed glasses. I can read roadsigns a halfmile away and I can see individual stars and planets to the seventh magnitude with no optical aids whatever. I can see Uranus.” 1 likes
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