Back in the old days when I was a graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin, a friend of mine and I played handball a couple of times a week (I was a terrible player) and talked about books. I'd just read Charles Portis's True Grit, and my friend recommended that I read Norwood, an earlier book by Portis. I did, and I've read it a couple of times since. It's still as hilarious as ever. If you haven't read it, you should give it a try. [Trigger Warning: Characters in this book use the n-word.] The cover to the left is from the movie edition, which is the one I read this time. I'll report on the movie on Tuesday.
There's not much of a plot in Norwood. It's a road-trip novel. Norwood gets out of the army on a hardship discharge when his father dies because there's no one to take care of his sister in Ralph, Texas. Norwood goes to work at a filling station much like the one in Mayberry where Gomer worked. Vernell gets a job as a waitress and gets married. Norwood's not happy with the situation at home, and he's not happy with the fact that an army buddy owes him $70. So he sets off for New York to get the money. Then he goes back to Ralph. Along the way he meets a lot of interesting and amusing characters, including a conman, a midget formerly known as The World's Smallest Perfect Man, a chicken, and a girl named Rita Lee, to whom he becomes engaged almost immediately. These encounters are all laugh-out-loud funny, or they are to me, even on the third reading.
I went on to read all of Portis's novels as they came along (there were too few of them, alas), and while I like some better than others, they're all wonderful. Especially this one.