Friday, May 06, 2016

FFB: Norwood -- Charles Portis (First Novel)

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.


12 comments:

George said...

I've read all of Charles Portis's novels, too. Completely different from each other. Portis had a wide range of writing interests. And, all the books are good with some better than others.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Under your influence, I followed up TRUE GRIT with NORWOOD and DOG OF THE SOUTH five years ago, but I still have a couple more unread.

Bill Crider said...

You can't go wrong with either one or both.

Mike Stamm said...

Long after I saw (and enjoyed) the first movie version of TRUE GRIT, I finally read the novel and was seriously impressed. (Memory says I read the last installment of its serialization in THE SATURDAY EVENING POST at my grandparents' house sometime in the late '60s, but I don't remember much about that.) Then I saw the second movie, and was impressed in a different way...and I've been looking for Portis's other books ever since. They're around--mostly in recent trade paperback re-issues--but they're awfully expensive. Probably time I hit the public library...

Bill Crider said...

I wish I'd bought hardbacks of all of them when they came out, but the only one I bought was MASTERS OF ATLANTIS.

Richard Robinson said...

Haven't read any, though I'm aware of him and his books.

Anonymous said...

Great book, great writer. I’ve also read Portis’ “Gringos” two or three times. The Jimmy Burns character is one of my favorites.

I think Portis is still hanging out in Little Rock.

John Duke

Todd Mason said...

Another I keep meaning to read. Looking forward to the film review.

Mathew Paust said...

I've read only True Grit, but now... I could use some good laughs.

Bill Crider said...

Any Portis novel will provide them.

TracyK said...

I am glad to hear that all of Portis's books are good. I recently read True Grit and immediately wanted to read everything else he had written. But I was afraid they would disappoint. I have been looking for a copy of Norwood. I also have a copy of Escape Velocity with some short stories and journalistic writings, that I have not yet read.

Bill Crider said...

They're all very different from each other, but all great reading.