Wednesday, October 28, 2009

meteors/goodreads book review: charles portis, the dog of the south

The Dog of the South The Dog of the South by Charles Portis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
so far, my favourite portis. it felt like it was of the same tenor of true grit, which i also really enjoyed, and there are parallels: both protagonists are on a journey to retrieve things stolen from them, and travel with men who uphold the law as they see fit. it also reminded me of jim thompson very much. i really do see a relationship between portis' books and vonnegut's, and joseph heller too.. my understanding is he is a reclusive man but i do like to imagine what it would be like for the three of them to meet: surely it would be utterly boring or bizarre. this book is a lovely collection of non-sequiturs, and common-place odd habits. i was surprised that ski, the man that dr. symes warns may be tracking him never appeared, but only after i read the book through a second time. i am left wondering why it was that doctor insisted on leaving only with his mother's cane. i expected there to be something in it, but if there was, i suspect i'll never know. there are truths here but i don't think portis really has any answers for me, only a wild ride. a passage i enjoyed very much:

I explained that I was very far from being a college professor and that I had never read poems or fictional stories and knew nothing about them. But the doctor kept on with this and Melba brought me her stories. They were in airmail tablets, written in round script on both sides of the thin paper.

One was about a red-haired beauty from New Orleans who went to New York and got a job as a secretaryon the second floor of the Empire State Building. There were mysterious petty thefts in the office and the red-haired girl solved the mystery with her psychic powers. The thief turned out to be the boss himself, and the girl lost her job and went back to New Orleans where she got another job that she liked better, although it didn't pay as well.

Melba had broken the transition problem wide open by starting almost every paragraph with "Moreover". She freely used "the former" and "the latter" and every time I ran into one of them I had to backtrack to see whome she was talking about. She was also fond of "inasmuch" and "crestfallen".

I read another story, an unfinished shocker about a father-and-son rape team who prowled the Laundromats of New Orleans. The leading character was a widow, a mature red-haired woman with nice skin. She had visions of the particular alleys and parts where the rapes were to occur but the police detectives wouldn't listen to her. "Bunk!" they said. She called them "the local gendarmes" and they in turn called all the girls "tomatoes".

A pretty good story, I thought, and I told Melba I would like to see the psychic widow show up the detectives and get them all fired or at least reduced in rank.

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