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3.89  ·  Rating details ·  919 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews
Jimmy Burns "in grass-green golfing trousers" is an expat American idler in Mexico, who unearths pre-Colombian artifacts, does small trucking jobs, and finds missing persons. Louise, a 90-pound stalker, hippies led by a murderous ex-con, and illegal Mayan excavators disrupt his laid-back lifestyle.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 1st 2000 by The Overlook Press (first published 1991)
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Feb 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: portishead
Gringos isn’t exactly what I wanted from Charles Portis at this time. Yes, I realize Portis probably had his own literary agenda, but naturally I prefer mine: i.e., that he continue to write short, funny, meandering books about semi-enlightened rednecks. Gringos fits several of these bills if you want to quibble—and, as I’ve said before, you usually do—but its humor is a little more serious-minded than I wanted. I have the suspicion that all this rigmarole about crazy Americans trying to work ou ...more
Jeff Jackson
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Charles Portis: the most underrated comic writer in America. This doesn't scale the heights of his masterwork DOG OF THE SOUTH, but it's enjoyable to accompany his eccentric characters as they drink in small town Mexican bars, trade notes on raiding Mayan tombs, track missing UFO experts through the jungle, and encounter hippie tribes awaiting the end of the world. There's a Robert Stone haze of menace floating around the edges of this tale and Pynchon-esque secret plots furtively winding throug ...more
Lars Guthrie
Feb 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
If you only want to read one Portis novel, make it, of course, ‘True Grit.’ Two, add ‘Norwood.’ Three, it’s ‘Gringos.’

Portis writes with an unassuming air. Nothing monumental going on, except perhaps with ‘True Grit.’ That tossed-off, effortless feeling is not so easy to produce, if you want it to come across with any sense of authenticity. Ask anyone who’s tried writing like that.

Ask Portis. Here’s the narrator of ‘Gringos,’ Jimmy Burns: ‘Writing is hard—it’s a form of punishment in schools, an
Sep 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It occurs to me, upon my most recent re-reading of this novel a few weeks ago, that this novel sort of works as a cross between Raiders of the Lost Ark (a movie I've seen maybe 45,000 times) and 2012 (a movie I did not see and have no intention of seeing, having already seen enough Roland Emmerich films to make my eyes bleed). But, you know, funny. Really really funny.

Also, this novel is great when you want to read random passages out loud to your friends' voice mail boxes. The only problem is t
Dillon Strange
Jun 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Another classic by the master. This book is a little larger in scope than his previous ones, but still classic Portis. Jimmy Burns is the hero, a wise cracking reformed thief of Mayan antiquities turned long haul trucker and finder of runaways. Here he's searching for a UFO obsessed crackpot friend gone missing in the Mexican jungle with a host of strange and wonderful characters in tow. A must read! Charles Portis is one of the greatest writers America has ever produced!
May 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Cut from similar cloth as the author’s Dog in the South, a story of ex-patriots (American) living on the Guatemala/Mexico border, and they are a truly eccentric bunch. Plot elements are wispy (another quest for a missing person) and languid, the sense of the comic turns alternately ominous, and the sentences are almost nearly all perfect. His finely pitched sentence after sentence keeps you reading despite the meandering narrative, on strength of the writing alone. A Manson family/ Jonestown typ ...more
Bud Smith
Dec 08, 2013 rated it liked it
I wanna go to Mexico and join a cult.
Bro_Pair أعرف
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Almost as good as Dog of the South, and thus probably Portis's second-best book. Stumbles slightly at the end. Slightly, surprisingly reactionary. But great.
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book. it didn't have the kind of quick pattering narrative I expected, but I got to really like the narrator, Jimmy Burns. he's an expat in Mexico, a retired Marine and retired seller of scavenged archaeological artifacts (such that some of the people around him sort of despair that he's not doing something better with himself). no one believes that he's left the business, no matter how many times he repeats himself or refuses to buy/sell anyone's trinkets. there's something of an ...more
Aug 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
I wavered between a three and four star on this book, but settled on a four star since I would easily recommend the book to a friend. Rust and sweat wafts off the pages of Gringos. This novel makes an art form out of sleepy pacing, giving the reader a real feeling for the tempo of living in Mexico working as a 'guy with a truck' after 'retiring' from exploiting ancient ruin artifacts. Jimmy Burns, our quasi-reluctant hero, wades between a world of trashy, ex-pat Gringos and the Mexican jungle. H ...more
Jeff Tucker
Jul 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
If Charles Portis wrote a grocery shopping list I would enjoy reading it. No one else writes quite like him. I do understand that he’s not for everyone. It takes a certain type of reader to appreciate his style and wit. He often seems to be toying with the reader. I loved ‘Gringos’. It was a little like ‘The Dog of the South’ but not as funny. It’s the story of Jimmy Burns and a group of expatriate Americans living in Merida, Mexico. Like his other books there’s road trips with strangers and sea ...more
Nov 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is the 3rd Portis novel I've plowed through, 2 more to go. His prose is a little bit more 'filled out' than his earlier, most stripped- down style as seen in his first novels Norwood & True Grit - but it still 'reads easy' - my way of saying, I enjoyed the living f*ck out of it. Jimmy Burns is an American ex-pat living in Merida, Mexico - a former temple robber, Burns tries to stick to more honest work nowadays. Gringos is about simply a series of his adventures, from making deliveries ...more
May 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: i-own
Charles Portis' slim body of work (five novels between 1966 and 1991) concludes with this hefty novel of Americans living in Mexico, working reluctantly and only when immediate deprivation requires it.

Jimmy Burns used to have a pretty good thing working as an archeological digger (and antiques seller), but now, he's happy to take it real nice and easy, maybe pick up a few bucks looking for missing people ("Shining a flashlight in people's faces," as he puts it). Jimmy's got plenty of fellow Gri
Zach Church
Funny, sarcastic, copyright is 1991, but this feels like a 70s novel, with an antihero who isn't an entirely bad guy. It's not so much that he's out to do good, he's just trying a little bit more not to be bad.

There's not a plot, really - just, guy makes two trips into the jungles of Mexico for various reasons and is surrounded by, encounters, and is accompanied by various characters. It's a book about growing older without settling down, about trying to be the adult in the room when everything
Zoe Liang
Definitely not on par with True Grit. Too many characters to keep track of. Can't really identify the point of the story. Kept my interest for the most part.
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
*** Mild Spoilers***

Charles Portis is the funniest American writer currently at work—I hope. Gringos, published in 1991, seems to be his last entrada, as Doc Flandin calls his voyage into the selva throughout the book. And while True Grit may be his best novel and Masters of Atlantis and The Dog of the South tied dead even for his funniest (or the funniest by anyone, anywhere), Gringos is my favorite.

I had the chance to teach the novel for a few years when I was teaching high-school AP Literatu
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I suspect that this is a brilliant novel. I want to reread it immediately, and not just because I liked it. No, because I didn't fully get it. But one problem with these Goodreads reviews is that you want to respond right away, while it's fresh and before you move on to half a dozen other things. And they want your response—all those irritating messages with so-called updates from your friends on their amazingly fast and copious reading lives ("Susie Q or Joe Blow has added 18 books"!—of course, ...more
Aaron Arnold
Mar 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
When I first finished the book I was vaguely disappointed. True Grit is sui generis, but of the "spiritual trinity" of Norwood, The Dog of the South, and this one, I thought the picaresque structure, the easygoing plain-spoken main character, the straight-faced jokes, and the easy asides and insights in Gringos seemed to have the least impact on me. The whole book is as laid-back as its protagonist, a Portis stand-in named Jimmy Burns living in Mexico who gets tangled up in a scheme to rescue a ...more
Jun 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Best way to give the flavor of Charles Portis is with a couple of excerpts, so here goes before the review proper:


"You're afraid of smart women, aren't you?"

She had used this ploy before, having heard via the female bush telegraph that it was unanswerable. She was right though. I was leery of them. Art and Mike said taking an intellectual woman into your home was like taking in a baby raccoon. They were both amusing for awhile but soon became randomly vicious and learned how to open the refri
Apr 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
I've now read every Charles Portis novel there is to read. Portis, like Patrick O'Brian, is an author to be read again and again, but it's still sad there isn't anything new for his fans.

In an earlier review of Portis' The Dog of the South, I said this:
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 s
Jul 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Charles Portis, the author of True Grit, writes here about American expatriates in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico through the first-person narration of Louisiana native Jimmy Burns. (Without meaning to, I realize I have read four novels in a row about Americans living in other countries.) Burns enjoys his loose, simple life in Mérida funded by multiple odd jobs and his social life centering around the misfit group of American expats and the German widow of an archeologist who rent, or used to rent, roo ...more
Tom Romig
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Our narrator, Jimmy Burns, "the very picture of an American idler in Mexico, right down to the grass-green golfing trousers," introduces us to his world of strange happenings and stranger people. In the wondrous and droll Portis way, we are quickly caught up in raids on Mayan tombs, UFO sightings, the search for an errant friend, a hippie invasion, and a deadly guru. Jimmy is a worthy Portis hero, not always following the ball but invariably able to deliver the odd yet telling observation.

I picked this up largely because Portis's earlier book True Grit is one of the best books I've read in the last twenty years, but also because the plot description sounded so crazy. The story follows Jimmy, a former looter of Mayan archaeological sites, now living the expatriate life in the Yucatan Peninsula, making ends meet hauling goods around, doing small deals, and sometimes running down missing Americans.

I couldn't quite work out when the book is supposed to be set, but it felt roughly lik
Aug 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: James Crumley fans
Shelves: bins
"Beth gave me mock curtsy. I nodded. Our flickering little romance had just about flickered out. She had taken me at first for a colorful Cajun, sucker of crawdad heads, old dancer to swamp tunes, then lost interest when she found I was from the Anglo, Arkansas-Texas part of Louisiana. Of our Arklatex folkways she knew nothing. She suspected them to be dark ways, a good deal of sweaty cruel laughter, but of a darkness that wasn't particularly interesting."

Jimmy Burns has based himself in the Yuc
Aug 10, 2012 rated it liked it
I normally Love Charles Portis, but Gringos didn't bowl me over. The wit is less evident, the characters still quirky, but slightly less wide-eyed and innocent, and therefore a bit less lovable than usual, but still likeable. The plot was the usual ramshackle affair centred around a cast of layabout slackers, odd balls, misfits, has-been's, and never-quite-were's. Hatching schemes and plans, abandoning them at every turn that might throw up an extra, unforeseen buck or two. Like all the good guy ...more
Wes Moerbe
Jun 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Portis writes the way I wish I could. Gringos may be his most charming work. His charactors are absurd, but very familiar. The protagonist, Jimmy, must navigate relaxed attitude towards...everything in Mexico, while finding an American lost among a gang of hippies drawn to a homicidal guru. Of course they are in Mexico to usher in the end of the world at a Mayan Temple(a timely read, given the 21st of May 2011 hijinks). But don't for a second think this some effort to pile-on the Mayan calendar ...more
Jason X
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
"Jimmy Burns is a pretty good sort of fellow with a mean streak. Hard worker. Solitary as a snake. Punctual. Mutters and mumbles. Trustworthy. Facetious."

The heart of the story is a river journey into the Mexican / Guatamalan jungle to the "City of Dawn," a so-called end of the world hippie festival at a Mayan ruin. Jimmy Burns is the heart of the book, quietly flowing through life. There is a slow pace to the events, and that seems purposeful. The characters are complicated, out of place, unsur
Adam Rabiner
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
My sense is that Gringos is a guys' novel, like the work of Cormac McCarthy, and I'm curious to see if my wife will get past the first 25 pages. It lacks deep character development and a strong plot. These aren't necessarily criticisms. I found it a quick and enjoyable read. The writing is brisk and Portis writes wittily about a caste of misfit American expatriates living and working in Merida, Mexico: "hippies", archeological professors, UFO hunters, retirees, new age types, grave robbers, etc. ...more
Feb 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Hilarious, witty and written with shocking clarity. A strange, mad-cap romp thru the jungles of Mexico (and the surrounding borders), unearthing Aztec ruins, forgotten cities, oddball conspiracies and UFO theorists.

As far as plot goes, Jimmy Burns travels thru life as an aloof and facetious observer. He is essentially an everyman character who keeps his hilarious musings private. He drifts from one vignette to another, eventually getting married when a female friend moves into his gifted alumin
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
For whatever reason, this book did not really engage me. I nodded off several times while reading it. I think the main reason was that you did not get a great feel for any of the characters. Many of the characters seemed to have quirks, but with all the names getting mentioned, often times the gringos all blended together. I never felt an understanding of why Jimmy Burns, the protagonist, was embarking on some of his expeditions.

One part which did impress me was that Jimmy Burns was likeable as
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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...

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“You put things off and then one morning you wake up and say—today I will change the oil in my truck.” 2 likes
“You're afraid of smart women, aren't you?'
She had used this ploy before, having heard via the female bush telegraph that it was unanswerable. She was right though. I was leery of them. Art and Mike said taking an intellectual woman into your home was like taking in a baby raccoon. They were both amusing for a while but soon became randomly vicious and learned how to open the refrigerator.”
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