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Extended Audio Sample Masters of Atlantis Audiobook, by Charles Portis Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (571 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Charles Portis Narrator: Barrett Whitener Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2008 ISBN: 9781455178513
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From acclaimed novelist Charles Portis comes this comic masterpiece of secret societies, lost cities, and American dreamers.

Stationed in France in 1917, Lamar Jimmerson comes across a little book crammed with Atlantean puzzles, Egyptian riddles, and extended alchemical metaphors. It’s the Codex Pappus—the sacred Gnomon text. Soon he is basking in the lore of lost Atlantis, convinced that his mission on earth is to extend the ranks of this noble brotherhood. He forms the Gnomon Society, an international fraternal order dedicated to preserving that lost city’s arcane wisdom. From the publication of Jimmerson’s own Gnomic texts, through the schism that rocks the Gnomic community, to the fateful gathering of the Gnomons in a mobile-home park in East Texas, Masters of Atlantis is a cockeyed journey into an America of misfits and con men, oddballs and innocents.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “No matter how extravagant the horseplay…a purpose infuses the craziness, a sense that the author is after something bigger than jokes. He is giving us a picture of Main Street made silly, of Babbittry gone goofy.”

    New York Times

  • “This great work is not only a contender for funniest American novel ever written but is also a melancholy consideration of the life of a dreamer and the tribulations of his followers.”

    Washington Post

  • “As much as I love Charles Portis’ other books, I believe Masters of Atlantis takes off even higher into the comic empyrean.”

    Roy Blount, Jr.

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ryan | 2/15/2014

    " First 100 pages or so were humorous - then the joke became old. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jim | 2/13/2014

    " Until I got around to reading True Grit, this was my favorite Charles Portis book. It's typical of his other books (except True Grit) in that a simpleton finds himself in unusual circumstances surrounded by more simpletons. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Grace Krilanovich | 2/1/2014

    " killer hilarious. I miss Squanto. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Steve | 2/1/2014

    " This is one of the funniest books I have ever read, a dead perfect parody of Freemasonry and other lodge-based secret societies. You don't have to be a Mason to appreciate Portis's wit and fantastic writing, though. This is one that I keep trying to get others to read. It's fantastic! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Randy Wise | 1/24/2014

    " This is another great one by Portis. The emphasis here is not on what secret knowledge supposedly is held in the "Codex Pappus" or by the Gnomon brotherhood, but on the quirkiness and obsessions of the secret society founders. Jimmerson, Babcock, Hen and Popper begin their secret society amidst the greatest conflict of the twentieth-century, WWII. However, they have little concern or interest in the war or, actually anything resembling reality. It is this obsession with so-called Telluric Currents (from Atlantis), secret handshakes, cloaked rituals and wearing of ridiculous outfits that Portis concentrates on. I've read four of Portis' five novels, and I rank this one fourth, in this order: True Grit, The Dog of the South, Norwood and Masters of Atlantis. There's even a cameo mention of a now three-hundred pound Dr. Reo Symes (from The Dog of the South). Portis has a knack for these kinds of characters and he reaches a pinnacle with Masters of Atlantis. Highly recommended. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aaron Arnold | 1/23/2014

    " What makes an American novel? What makes a great novel? And what makes the Great American Novel? Masters of Atlantis isn't the Great American Novel, that elusive white whale of navel-gazing twentieth century writers, but it is great, and, to judge by the jacket copy on every single one of his books, extremely American. I agree with that sentiment, although I really can't say why. Obviously the fact that it's set in America makes it American in some way, but I think what those reviewers are trying to get at is that there's something about the way Portis presents the events in his book that a foreigner just couldn't replicate. Since plenty of non-natives from have written great books both set in and about the US, it's worth thinking about why Portis' works get grouped in with Mark Twain's and not Vladimir Nabokov's. I think it's mostly due to the brilliantly intimate way that Portis sketches his characters, who usually fall into two main archetypes: credulous yokels and self-confident hustlers. Right from the very first page of this book, when WW1 soldier Lamar Jimmerson is convinced to pay $200 for the secret magisteria of the legendary Gnomon Society by a man who is variously called Nick from Turkey or Mike from Egypt or Jack from Syria or Robert from Malta, Portis sets up a great story with fascinating characters. The actual con that begins the story is over in a matter of pages, but the childlike faith with which Lamar pursues his dreams of being a Gnomon - whose Pythagorean rituals and lore, involving cones and spirals and triangles, are never described completely but alluded to constantly - sustains not only him but at one point thousands of others who flock to his banner. Early on he meets the Englishman Sydney Hen who convinces him to share in his secrets, and with the eventual arrival of diabolically inventive henchman Austin Popper the rest of the book unfolds in hilarious overlapping layers of bullshit, as the Society rises, splinters, and falls, and Popper strikes out on his own all over the map as a demented bibulous überfraud. This is on one level a classic satire of American society, which has always been made up of joiners and mystics and truth-seekers. There is no club or fraternal organization so ridiculous that it can't find a membership of willing dupes; partly this reflects our sheer size, and partly it also reflects the perennial tendency for such a materialistic society to find Higher Meaning in all sorts of things. I think there's a fairly clear continuum from the Great Awakenings through Sixties spiritualism and up to the Jesus Camps of the present day. But what could have been a bitter polemic about American stupidity is a genial, affectionate comedy about lost souls, and though there's some scenes of decay and humiliation that darken the tone of the book, overall Portis knows that America needs its P. T. Barnums, and that a world without them would be much grayer. Popper's drunken wanderings comprise most of the action in the second part of the book, and if you don't laugh out loud when he tries to convince the War Department to use compressed air as a weapon, or when he tries to conjure gold up out of the earth with Golescu the Romanian's bagweed plants, or at any of the other scenes that rank right up there with Huck Finn's encounter with the Duke and the Dauphin, then you simply have no sense of humor whatsoever. Where Portis falls short of someone like Twain is that he doesn't really tackle serious issues like racism, but no book can be all things to all people so it wasn't a problem for me. I hope he stops not writing books, we could use more from him. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Syco | 1/20/2014

    " Preposterous, absurd, amusing... I like Charles Portis a lot. The characters in Masters of Atlantis didn't grab me like the peanut gallery in his other books, but the comic adventures were grand. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marjorie | 1/19/2014

    " This was nicely absurd, with characters as quirky as Ignatius Reilly, but never caused me to laugh out loud. Or even snort. Or even really smirk. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mary Richard | 1/14/2014

    " Masters of Atlantis is supposed to be a spoof on various secret societies in which "other people" participate. The main character, Lamar Jimmerson (an American)is a recently-discharged WWI vet who is swindled by a man who gives him a book, the "Codex Pappus," which is supposed to contain the collective wisdom of Atlantis, and for $200.00, allows him admission to the secret Gnomon society. Although the swindler is never seen again, Jimmerson, with Sydney Hen(an Englishman), starts a American branch of the Gnomon Society in which the swindler becomes a legendary figure, and the Codex Pappus, becomes the society's holy text. While many reviewers thought this book was hilarious,it didn't make me laugh. Its only purpose seemed to be to polk fun at people who Portis perceives to be fools, without offering anything insightful or redeeming about them, and the ease with which he filleted them suggested that the author enjoyed using his knife a little too much. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joyce | 1/11/2014

    " Wasn't motivated to finish this, even though it was an amusing take on goofy, quasi-religious secret societies. Brought to mind Fanny Trollope's commentary on silly American sects. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Douglas Dalrymple | 1/6/2014

    " Long on farce, short on funny (though there were a handful of laughs and a dozen good lines). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Justin Howe | 12/15/2013

    " Fans of The Crying of Lot 49, The Confederacy of Dunces, and the works of Charles Fort will enjoy this secret history of the Gnomon Society amongst America's misfits, innocents, and con-men. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Wayne | 5/1/2013

    " Silly and unfunny, it's hard to believe that this is the work of the author of True Grit. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dani | 4/20/2013

    " Conical hats play a big role in this hilarious book. Should be much more well known. Recommended for people who like "Confederacy of Dunces" and not just because that calls to mind a conical hat too. Recommended for people who like comedy, atheism. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ed | 4/8/2013

    " Funny and sweet and full of life. I was riding my bike around Key West and a first edition of this caught my eye. It was $2 and I gave it to my friend Johnny. My copy is still being "borrowed" after three years by Benzler. Help! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kobe Bryant | 3/11/2013

    " This was pretty good, I liked the part where they were growing some plant to harvest gold "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Teri Zipf | 2/8/2013

    " My least favorite Portis book, but that's relative and nonetheless I think of it often, so it's probably better than I thought. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andy | 12/5/2012

    " This may be the funniest book I've ever read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nikolai Klein | 12/4/2012

    " Simply the funniest book ever written. period. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Adam Gecking | 11/20/2012

    " Charles Portis has a sense of humor that rivals Kurt Vonnegut. Everyone should read this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ben Miller | 10/25/2012

    " Quite possibly the funniest book I've ever read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Greg | 1/5/2012

    " Makes one feel foolish for ever believing in anything ever, and yet still fun to read. ?????? (Greg shakes his puny fist at Portis while yelling his name threateningly.) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Christina | 12/7/2011

    " Not a riotous read, yet comical through every page. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kristoffer | 8/17/2011

    " This was a great book - I loved it "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Larry | 6/23/2011

    " Brilliant, hilarious and sad "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sherry | 5/17/2011

    " Simply wonderful. Everyone in this book believes in arcane knowledge or conspiracies or secrets hidden in the numbers or angles around us. My favorite scene is a Texas legislative hearing that mocks Joe McCarthy and his crew. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 James Wayne | 5/2/2011

    " Silly and unfunny, it's hard to believe that this is the work of the author of True Grit. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Justin | 4/7/2011

    " Fans of The Crying of Lot 49, The Confederacy of Dunces, and the works of Charles Fort will enjoy this secret history of the Gnomon Society amongst America's misfits, innocents, and con-men. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mike | 1/26/2011

    " Funny, sardonic, but not very compelling. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Douglas | 11/3/2010

    " Long on farce, short on funny (though there were a handful of laughs and a dozen good lines). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Christina | 10/1/2010

    " Not a riotous read, yet comical through every page. "

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About the Author
Author Charles Portis

Charles Portis lives in Arkansas, where he was born and educated. He served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. As a reporter, he wrote for the New York Herald-Tribune and was also its London bureau chief. His first novel, Norwood, was published in 1966. His other novels are True Grit, Masters of Atlantis, The Dog of the South, and Gringos.

About the Narrator

Barrett Whitener has been narrating audiobooks since 1992. His recordings have won several awards, including the prestigious Audie and seven Earphones Awards. AudioFile magazine has named him one of the Best Voices of the Century. He lives in Washington, DC.