Monday, August 24, 2009

Dr. Reo Symes

From Dr. Reo Symes in Charles Portis' The Dog of the South:

The kind of people I know now don't have barbecues, Mama. They stand up alone at nights in small rooms and eat cold weenies. My so-called friends are bums. Many of them are nothing but rats. They spread T.B. and use dirty language. Some of them can even move their ears. They're wife-beaters and window peepers and night crawlers and dope fiends. They have running sores on the backs of their hands that never heal. They peer up from cracks in the floor with their small red eyes and watch for chances.

I had heard that Portis' novels were very funny, but when I started The Dog of the South, I expected something like the madcap, almost slapstick, sensibility of The Confederacy of Dunces. It's very different from that, with a more demented and subversive kind of humor. Portis has a sharp writing style that is perfectly attuned to the narrator, Ray Midge, and his random, weightless existence on the trail of his wife and her ex-husband, Guy Dupree, in the British Honduras.

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