book cover of The Dog of the South

The Dog of the South

(1979)
A novel by

 
 
Charles Portis may be the sneakiest comedian in American letters, not to mention one of the funniest. And there's no better specimen of his double-edged art than The Dog of the South, which Overlook Press has recently rescued from a long, cruel, out-of-print limbo. As usual, the narrator is a down-at-the-heels Southerner with an eye for the homely detail and a mission to accomplish. What Ray Midge means to do is track down his significant other: "My wife Norma had run off with Guy Dupree and I was waiting around for the credit card billings to come in so I could see where they had gone." In another author's hands, this opening sentence might lead straight to a bloody, noir-ish denouement. Here it's merely the excuse for a meandering, semi-pointless quest, during which the fussbudget protagonist is assailed by tropical storms, grifters, hippies, car trouble, and even an assortment of airborne trash: "I had to keep the Buick speed below what I took to be about sixty because at that point the wind came up through the floor hole in such a way that the Heath wrappers were suspended behind my head in a noisy brown vortex."

Hapless, rhetorically challenged Ray Midge would more than fulfill any novel's quota for comic creation. But Portis pairs him with another indelible nutter, Dr. Reo Symes. A font of dubious financial schemes, Symes attaches himself to Ray like a peevish, passive-aggressive Pancho Sanza, and his non-sequitur-studded riffs must be heard to be believed:
I always tried to help Leon and you see the thanks I got. I hired him to drive for me right after his rat died. He was with the Murrell Brothers Shows at that time, exhibiting a fifty-pound rat from the sewers of Paris, France. Of course it didn't really weigh fifty pounds and it wasn't your true rat and it wasn't from Paris, France, either. It was some kind of animal from South America. Anyway, the thing died and I hired Leon to drive for me. I was selling birthstone rings and vibrating jowl straps from door to door and he would let me out at one end of the block and wait on me at the other end.
The vibrating jowl straps are the kicker here, of course. But it's the overall futility of the enterprise that gives Symes his comic potency, and makes him Ray's natural companion in arms. Neither of these guys is going to accomplish anything: they're Beckett clowns in Sansabelt trousers, too enervated by the heat even to agonize. Still, you won't find a more delicious (or less reliable) narrator in contemporary fiction, and Charles Portis's genius for inventing all-American eccentrics is anything but futile. --James Marcus

Genre: Sagas

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Used availability for Charles Portis's The Dog of the South

Hardback Editions

June 1979 : USA Hardback
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Title: The Dog of the South (1st Edition)
Author(s): Charles Portis
ISBN: 0-394-50614-6 / 978-0-394-50614-2 (USA edition)
Publisher: Knopf
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


Paperback Editions

2012 : UK Paperback
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Title: The Dog of the South (Large Print Edition)
Author(s): Charles Portis
ISBN: 1-4712-0586-X / 978-1-4712-0586-6 (UK edition)
Publisher: W F Howes Ltd
Availability: Amazon UK   


June 2007 : USA Paperback
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Title: The Dog of the South
Author(s): Charles Portis
ISBN: 1-58567-931-3 / 978-1-58567-931-7 (USA edition)
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


July 2005 : UK Paperback
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Title: The Dog of the South
Author(s): Charles Portis
ISBN: 0-7475-7264-X / 978-0-7475-7264-0 (UK edition)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon AU   


April 1999 : USA Paperback
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Title: The Dog of the South
Author(s): Charles Portis
ISBN: 0-87951-931-2 / 978-0-87951-931-5 (USA edition)
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


July 1985 : USA Paperback
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Title: The Dog of the South
Author(s): Charles Portis
ISBN: 0-553-34169-3 / 978-0-553-34169-0 (USA edition)
Publisher: Bantam Books
Availability: Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


Audio Editions

July 2013 : USA Audio CD
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Title: The Dog of the South
Author(s): Charles Portis
ISBN: 1-4708-9015-1 / 978-1-4708-9015-5 (USA edition)
Publisher: Blackstone Audio Inc
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


February 2012 : USA Audio edition
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Title: The Dog of the South
Author(s): Charles Portis
Publisher: Recorded Books
Availability: Amazon   


February 2012 : Canada Audio edition
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Title: The Dog of the South
Author(s): Charles Portis
Publisher: Recorded Books
Availability: Amazon CA   


October 2001 : USA Audio Cassette
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Title: The Dog of the South: Library Edition
Author(s): Charles Portis
ISBN: 0-7861-1995-0 / 978-0-7861-1995-0 (USA edition)
Publisher: Blackstone Audio Inc
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


October 2001 : USA Audio CD
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Title: The Dog of the South: Library Edition
Author(s): Charles Portis
ISBN: 0-7861-9687-4 / 978-0-7861-9687-6 (USA edition)
Publisher: Blackstone Pub
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


October 2001 : USA MP3 CD
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Title: The Dog of the South: Library Edition
Author(s): Charles Portis
ISBN: 0-7861-9464-2 / 978-0-7861-9464-3 (USA edition)
Publisher: Blackstone Pub
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


Kindle Editions

June 2007 : Canada, UK Kindle edition
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Title: The Dog of the South
Author(s): Charles Portis
Publisher: The Overlook Press
Availability: Amazon UK   Amazon CA