Gringos

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Following the enormous success of the reissues of Charles Portis's first three novels—The Dog of the South, Norwood, and Masters of Atlantis—comes the reissue of a fourth truly brilliant, wonderfully bizarre novel by one of our great American novelists.

Jimmy Burns is an expatriate American living in Mexico who has an uncommonly astute eye for the absurd little details that comprise your average American. For a time, Jimmy spent his days ...
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Gringos

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Overview

Following the enormous success of the reissues of Charles Portis's first three novels—The Dog of the South, Norwood, and Masters of Atlantis—comes the reissue of a fourth truly brilliant, wonderfully bizarre novel by one of our great American novelists.

Jimmy Burns is an expatriate American living in Mexico who has an uncommonly astute eye for the absurd little details that comprise your average American. For a time, Jimmy spent his days unearthing pre-Colombian artifacts. Now he makes a living doing small trucking jobs and helping out with the occasional missing person situation—whatever it takes to remain "the very picture of an American idler in Mexico, right down to the grass-green golfing trousers." But when Jimmy's laid-back lifestyle is seriously imposed upon by a ninety-pound stalker called Louise, a sudden wave of "hippies" (led by a murderous ex-con guru) in search of psychic happenings, and a group of archaeologists who are unearthing (illegally) Mayan tombs, his simple South-of-the-Border existence faces a clear and present danger.

"Charles Portis is perhaps the most original, indescribable sui generis talent overlooked by literary culture in America."—Ron Rosenbaum, Esquire

"I've always thought Charles Portis had a wonderful talent—original, quirky, exciting. Gringos demonstrates that he's only gotten better. It's an engaging, touching book."—Larry McMurtry

"Some of the funniest writing ever produced anywhere ...you will be stalking the house for someone to read long passages to, or getting on the phone, if it comes to that."—Dallas Morning News (Norwood/Dog of the South)
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A wild and woolly, offbeat ride through a quicksand Mexican-American mindscape, Portis's ( True Grit ; Norwood ) latest saga features Jimmy Burns, an idler from Louisiana transplanted to Mexico, where he ekes out a living finding missing persons and doing odd jobs. Equally odd are the other motley expatriates. Ninety-pound Louise Kurle, who's writing a book about benign space dwarfs, suspects her missing husband, Rudy, was abducted by UFOs. Big Dan, a paunchy ex-con guru/white supremacist/kidnapper, poses to his band of deranged hippies as El Mago, the wizard whom the Mayas predict will appear at the end of time. Murder, adventure and Indian lore animate a Mexico aswarm with New Age mystics, kooks, skinheads, graduate students, maverick archeologists and looters of shrines. For all these doings, the story doesn't really go anywhere, and Portis's uprooted dreamers and schemers here have a tiresome sameness. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Portis's ``gringos'' are a motley bunch of archaeologists, UFO-ologists, New Age mystics, Mormons, teenage runaways, Mayan artifact smugglers, and assorted expatriates floating around the Yucatan peninsula like so much flotsam. But most of them are there for a reason. They are all trying to make some kind of contact: with the ancient Mayan civilization, an advanced extraterrestrial civilization, the supernatural, even their inner selves. Portis grandly spoofs some of these ridiculous quests, but realizes his gringos travel in a world that can turn deadly and may even demand blood sacrifice. It is a world where things rarely are what they seem and where connections are often made only by chance. Readers who delighted in the author's True Grit ( LJ 5/1/68) or The Dog of the South ( LJ 4/15/79) will not be disappointed.-- Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.
Library Journal
Portis's 1991 comic novel follows protagonist Jimmy Burns, who has expatriated to Mexico to live a quiet existence. Enter a female stalker, Mayan tomb-robbing archaeologists, UFO hunters, and a group looking for psychic happenings. Good, quirky fun. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
gq.com
Sometime after my fifth reading of Charles Portis's Gringos, I stopped worrying so much about death, politics, and getting fat, and I started worrying about my car.

Gringos is a compact, hilarious meander in the life of Jimmy Burns, an amateur archaeologist, junk trader, and shade-tree mechanic eking out a transcendently unexamined life in Mexico's Yucatán peninsula. Burns's anxieties are more automotive than existential, a stacking of priorities that, as the book proceeds, begins to resemble a quietly heroic state of grace. These are the sorts of unassailable proverbs you get from Jimmy Burns: "You put things off and then one morning you wake up and say—today I will change the oil in my truck." Repeat this line a few times. It sticks in your head like the answer to a Buddhist koan.

I put Burnsisms into practice all the time. The other day, I was driving around with my lady friend when, out of nowhere, she yelled, "Look, dammit, there are some things going on between us we seriously need to discuss." "Okay," I said, "but right now I need to listen to that thumping sound, which I think is a blown sway-bar bushing." I don't know what a sway-bar bushing is, but saying these words made everything get calm and quiet so that all I could hear was the soothing drone of the engine and the tranquil grinding of my sweetheart's molars.

Over the course of the novel, Burns's heroics range past the everyday and into more swashbuckling territory. At one point, he's compelled to blow out the brains of a homicidal hippie guru, but he doesn't let the killing ruffle his composure. "Shotgun blast or not at close range, I was still surprised at how fast and clean Dan had gone down," Burns reflects. "I wasn't used to seeing my will so little resisted, having been in sales for so long."

Most people know Charles Portis only as the author of True Grit (whose comic brilliance both the recent Coen brothers adaptation and the 1969 John Wayne film failed to fulfill), but for my money Gringos is his subtlest, funniest, and most valuable for its depth of inarguable wisdom: If your clutch plate doesn't rust to your flywheel and you get a fair price on that set of used tires, you've tasted as much of life's sweet fullness as anyone deserves.--(Wells Tower)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671724573
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/15/1990
  • Pages: 272

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 20, 2011

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    Nookbook price is too high! B&N and the greedy, tree-killing, paper-loving, neandrathal publishers are just missing the whole point of the ereaders. It's 2011, people. Librarys are renting these ebooks for FREE. You are all going to go out of business if you don't change your business model!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2013

    Totally confussing read, no story to speak of !

    Huggg

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