John Frazier's Reviews > The Dog of the South

The Dog of the South by Charles Portis
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's review
Aug 19, 2012

liked it

Disclaimer: I picked this book up at our library's used book store knowing nothing about it or the author. After reading it and then a few reviews of it, I can see that I may well be in the minority here. Ray Midge is the smart-yet-misguided narrator, a cuckold who wisely uses credit card receipts to trace his wife and her new lover from Arkansas to Belize. Adding insult to injury, they also stole his car for the journey, forcing him to drive a road-weary Buick with its own personality in pursuit of the pair. (Although we're told that Ray is taking a gun with him, which he fails to get past Mexican authorities, we're never really sure of the purpose of his trip. Revenge? A second chance at love? The recovery of his car?)

Along the way he meets some interesting characters, including Dr. Symes, whose mother operates a shelter/church in the same town Midge is headed to. (Symes had been living in a broken down bus called "The Dog of the South," a fact hardly deserving of the book's title, and he wants his mom to cede possession of a small island in Louisiana to him.) The two run into some pitfalls along the way, most of which I found to be more realistic than humorous, and they do finally reach their destination, where Midge finally locates his sick wife (to what end we don't learn). Symes also locates his mother, though his quest for her property seems both unsatisfactory and unresolved.

The book's afterward suggested that this and other Portis efforts have long been overlooked and deserve more recognition, though I'm at a loss to really understand why. (Two of his books, "True Grit" and "Norwood," were made into fairly successful movies.) It was well written, moved along at a good clip and was perfectly plausible, but I just don't see it achieving the status others believe the book and its author deserve.

I'd like to think that I appreciate a little mindless adventure as much as the next reader, but that may not be the case here.

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