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The Dog of the South

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  3,368 ratings  ·  533 reviews
From Arkansas down to New Mexico and eventually leading to Honduras, a man is on the hunt for his wife who is following her first husband by a trail of credit card receipts.
Paperback, 245 pages
Published July 1st 1985 by Random House Publishing Group (first published 1979)
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Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Everybody’s either neurotic or unlikeable or both. The dialog is brilliant, the humour ironic, deadpan and dry – don’t look for belly laughs. This’ll work for anyone who still hankers for the good old days, the exhilaration of hittin’ the road in a beat up clunker held together with coat hangers and a prayer, destination a big fat question mark. For anyone who’s ever been dumped and figured out life goes on. For anyone who appreciates it’s all about the journey. I loved its honesty, its anti-cli ...more
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,
Feb 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: portishead
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
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humorous-fiction
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
The Dog of the South: You Can't Always Get What You Want

Jack became solemn and he began to pose rhetorical questions, 'What is everybody looking for?' he said. Norma didn't hesitate; she said everybody was looking for love. I gave the question some thought and then declared that everybody was looking for a good job of work to do. Jack said no, that many people were looking for those things, but that everybody was looking for a good job of work to do. Jack said no,
that many people were looking f
Aug 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I tell you I can't answer questions like that. You see me as a can-do guy from the States, but I don't have all the answers. I'm white and I don't dance but that doesn't mean I have all the answers.”
― Charles Portis, The Dog of the South


Charles Portis isn't God. But I believe he can do no wrong and can walk on water when I read his books. In fact, while reading his novels, the exact feeling I get can only be described as eating an overcooked eucharist; some crunchy, holy, wafer of truth that ha
Tom Mathews
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: gluttons for punishment
I really enjoyed True Grit and had high hopes for this book about a road trip through places that I personally took road trips through back in my misspent youth.

Unfortunately, The book is mostly about unpleasant people having tedious conversations. There is little story progression and even less plot. If this isn't bad enough, Portis, or at least his publishers, are guilty of an egregious case of false advertising. The title and the books cover suggest, and on some covers state outright, that t
Jun 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ray Midge embarks on a road trip to recover his car and his wife, meeting along the way a wacky assortment of characters who appear to have escaped from a Coen Brothers movie. As with any Portis novel, the real treat is the humorous dialogue, both internal and external, while the plot is largely ancillary. This 1979 book marked Portis' return to publishing novels after an 11 year hiatus following his indelible True Grit.
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 29, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Suzanne by: Jeff Tucker
3.5 stars. Thanks again to my thoughtful friend Jeff who sent me this book because he knew I enjoyed Portis’ True Grit. This one also involves a quest, but wrapped in a contemporary story about a road trip from Arkansas to Belize. In The Dog of the South, as in True Grit, the narrator has experienced a loss and is seeking retribution. Ray Midge takes off after his wife Norma, who’s run off with another man, her previous husband, Guy Dupree. But all Ray admits to wanting back is his Ford Torino, ...more
May 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-comedy
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.)
M.J. Johnson
Nov 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I can only describe The Dog of the South as a comic masterpiece, and Portis is without any shadow of a doubt in my mind a greatly underrated American novelist. I’ve heard him compared to Cormac McCarthy, and I can see the line of thought taken here: the characters both writers create often inhabit a similar kind of universe, down at heel and desperate; both authors’ prose has a poetic elegance about it. However, (it seems to me) the difference is that Portis really likes his characters, he’s lik ...more
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
My fault. I failed to spot the word “hilarious” (Baltimore Sun) on the back cover – a word reviewers seem to think is synonymous with “humourless” – and therefore bought a book that I might have avoided had my eyesight been better.

Trying to analyze why The Dog of the South is wildly unfunny is not so easy. The book appears to be picaresque, with an anti-hero, a large cast of odd characters, a road trip from Little Rock to Belize, and a huge number of curious incidents, accidents, and encounters.
Dec 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Allan MacDonell
Dec 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 22, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: browsing shelves of my local bookstore
Shelves: fiction
At 26, Ray Midge has accomplished little and is drifting into an unpromising future. His wife Norma has run off with her ex-husband Gary Dupree. Gary is even more directionless than Ray. He has jumped bail and made off with Norma, Ray's Torino., and his Amex card. (Why would someone like Ray have an Amex? It's a concession to plot. Amex has no preset limit). Dupree left a 1963 Buick Special, a rust bucket with a hole in the floor. Ray is barely perturbed by these losses. Rather than report any o ...more
May 08, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charles Portis's The Dog of the South has for its hero a cuckold by the unlovely name of Raymond Midge. We learn at the beginning that his wife Norma has run off with her ex-husband Guy Dupree with Raymond's Gran Torino and American Express Card. Raymond tracks their progress south by looking to see where they used the Amex card.

Eventually, the chase ends up in British Honduras (now known as Belize), where Dupree's father owns some property. Along the way, we run into two odd characters, a bail
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
unreal. such economical command of language. so sharp and wise and hilarious. some of the best 9 word sentences ever committed to paper. Beginning is just an absolute trip - kind of gets lost in the jungles for a bit but ends about as strong and heartwarming as you could imagine.
"What's wrong with me Norma?" "You just want to stay in the house all the time." I'm sorry but really just some of the most stunning and inspiring fiction I've tapped in to in years - will be thinking about life in clip
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
Jul 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2008
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
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Dec 31, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A comedy act by this unusual dude. This would definitely bore some readers but it was crazy and funny enough to keep me reading. Recommendation from Tina.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I think I saw where some people were speculating over just who the "dog of the south" was in this story. Most seem to think it's the story's narrator, Ray Midge, a 26 year old military history nerd, who has yet to get any traction in life, and who has just lost his wife, Norma, to her first husband, Guy Dupree. They steal Ray's car and head south (with Ray in meandering pursuit). Anyway, I see no reason for not taking Portis at his word. The "Dog of the South" is a broken down white (like the wh ...more
Sep 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who doesn't mind wetting their pants from laughing
My husband and I aren't bibliophiles, we're bibliomaniacs. It's virtually impossible for us to leave a bookstore or library without 4 or 5 books each. Unfortunately, we hate each other's taste in reading. For the most part, we get along great, but when we do argue, it's along the lines of, "A crappy book like THE GREAT GATSBY has no business sitting alongside my BETSY-TACY collection" or "If I find you sneaking AT SWIM TWO BIRDS under my pillow one more time, it's going straight in the trash."

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
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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
“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.” 8 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.” 7 likes
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