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Publisher's Summary

Charles Portis has drawn widespread critical acclaim for his inventive prose. In The Dog of the South, Ray Midge is on the trail of his wife, Norma, who’s headed for Mexico with her ex-husband. On the way Ray meets the eccentric Dr. Reo Symes, a man with more get-rich-quick schemes than common sense. Together, they’ll have to overcome tropical storms, grifters, and plenty of car trouble en route to their destination—wherever that may be.

©1979 Charles Portis (P)2012 Recorded Books, LLC

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Rick
  • Urcuqui, Ecuador
  • 02-05-15

A Gem that Defies Description

Reviewers typically give up when it comes to the work of Charles Portis, saying in one way or another that it simply can’t be described. That’s just how I feel after hearing “A Dog of the South” and learning of him for the first time, long after I should have. It is a rambling little yarn of the Deep South in the 1970s—so Deep that it rambles into Belize. The characters are a tattered, mismatched bunch of shifty failures, grifters, evangelists, shallow dreamers and a couple of weird children, all of whom, for some reason, are easily imagined as shadowy figures in the dim light of a bare bulb in some rundown hotel.

Ray Midge’s friend has stolen his wife and his car and headed to Mexico and beyond, and Ray goes after them—to retrieve his car. The people and puzzlements he encounters are beyond imagining. The plot is a barely-necessary device to support the author’s hilarious and inventive prose. For example, he arrives at the steamy, seedy Fair Play Hotel in Belize and meets the night clerk:

“She woke a small Negro boy named Webster Spooner, who slept in a box in the foyer. It was a pretty good wooden box, with bedding in it. I knew his name because he had written it on a piece of paper and taped it to his box. At the foot of his makeshift bed, there was a tomato plant growing in an old Texaco grease bucket.“

The first sentence would be plenty good by itself, but Portis piles on unexpected details that yield rich and riveting descriptions of an exceedingly strange world. It is deliciously funny.

As I said, it can’t be described. The soft Southern accent of David Aaron Baker provides the perfect first-person voice for Ray Midge—a decent fellow with good intentions and vague ambitions you know he will never realize. But listening to his zany adventure unfold is an excellent way to spend eight hours. You won’t regret it.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A highlight of my long life of reading

This is one of the most enjoyable books I have read/heard in 50 years of reading. With his startling and hilarious combination of sagacity and cluelessness, the narrator/main character Ray Midge puts me in mind of A Confederacy of Dunces (absent the gravitas). I was smiling all the way through, except when I was laughing out loud.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 03-21-16

America's Gogol

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 has been burnt by the absurdity of the modern world. I open the world-weary pages of a Portis novel and suddenly I am taken-up in a vision that contains the body and the blood of all that is great with American Fiction. He reminds me of some unholy combination of Cormac McCarthy and Walker Percy -- with a bit of Saul Bellow thrown in for flavor.

Let's get out of the way: the truth. This is the same dude from Arkansas that wrote True Grit. Great book. Fantastic novel and both movies were fantastic. Great. Good. Hallelujah! Now let's put that away. There is so much more to Charles Portis than just one amazing book. This isn't some one-hit wonder novelist. This guy is the real deal. Serious, put him next to Flannery O'Connor. Yes, he is that fantastic. OK, perhaps, we can't get ahead of ourselves. So, put him close to Flannery, looking up at her, but not with a craned neck. Roy Blount, Jr. has posited that "No one should die without having read [The Dog of the South]". Ron Rosenbaum thinks Charles Portis is America's Gogol. I shit you not.

Basically, the story is about a man's search for his runaway wife. She has run off with her ex-husband to Mexico and Belize and the narrator, Ray Midge, is going to track them down. This is a world where cars don't run well, the pelicans get struck by lightening, and people and fabricators, are either running to something or away from something. This is a book that is as much about figuring out where one is and where one belongs. It reminds me of that space which exists for a brief second between sleep and wake, after a crazy dream, where one is unsure about which side of the fog is real; and question gets begged which side of the fog one really belongs.

25 of 31 people found this review helpful

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A Perfect Match of Reader and Writer

What did you love best about The Dog of the South?

David Aaron Baker deserves an Oscar (whatever the appropriate equivalent might be) for his performance. He demonstrates a complete grasp of the written work and an impeccable sense of timing and delivery as he brings the characters of this charming work alive. Charles Portis must listen to this and marvel at how Raymond and Dr. Symes and the British Hondurans come alive in his novel. Confederacy of Dunces is the only equivalent I have encountered.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Dog of the South?

The interaction of Raymond and the cast of characters he encounters is wonderful. But any reader will recognize that Portis' ear for dialogue is uncanny. A reader who can make those encounters echo two adversaries, without the benefit of a writer's use of the printed page to identify speakers, is one of a kind. Baker is in rare form.

Have you listened to any of David Aaron Baker’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Not sure.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Laugh. Wonder. Learn.

Any additional comments?

One of a kind.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Wow!

Perfect! Waiting for the Coen brothers movie. Ray Midge and Reo will be with me for life. I would heartily recommend

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Long end good start.

The end dragged on and on...which is saying something for such a short book. Not a bad listen though.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Hard to get through

This book was not for me. If you want to listen to a spineless Jeff foxworthy read you a book about a trip he takes, and all of the annoying people he meets than this is it. Constantly complaining about people and cars and their quirks that he just can’t understand.

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    3 out of 5 stars

not one of his best

Portis is known for one work that is how it will stay. his Meandering travelogues are not his strong suit. The characters are great but the narrative is ultimately unsatisfactory. I found myself more frustrated than entertained

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

So good...

Well done. The voice work for Ray and Doc Symes byplay was brilliant. I keep coming back to Portis and I'm always glad I did.

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    4 out of 5 stars

An enjoyable book, excellently narrated

A wacky, off-beat, and humorous book. I like the way that the author exaggerates the idiosyncrasies of every character, so that no-one is quite normal but at the same time perfectly believable. A good narrator can really bring a book to life and the narration of this book was superb. The voice he was able to create for each character so perfectly matched that character and he moved effortlessly from one to another in dialogue. I particularly liked the voice he created for the Doctor - masterful! I will definitely be looking to listen to more books narrated by Mr. Baker.