Gringos by Charles Portis | Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Gringos

Gringos

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by Charles Portis
     
 

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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

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.

Editorial Reviews

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)

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781585670932
Publisher:
The Overlook Press
Publication date:
05/28/2000
Pages:
269
Sales rank:
276,349
Product dimensions:
5.45(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Charles Portis lives in Arkansas, where he was born and educated. He served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, was the London bureau chief of the New York Herald-Tribune, and was a writer for The New Yorker.

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