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Extended Audio Sample Norwood Audiobook, by Charles Portis Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.82 out of 53.82 out of 53.82 out of 53.82 out of 53.82 out of 5 3.82 (60 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Charles Portis Narrator: Barrett Whitener Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2006 ISBN: 9781455177912
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Norwood, the first novel by the long-acclaimed Charles Portis, is an outstanding example of the cool wit and unique style that has made Portis one of America’s greatest writers.

Out of the American neon desert of rollerdromes, chili parlors, the Grand Ole Opry, and girls who want to “live in a trailer and play records all night” comes an ex-marine and troubadour, Norwood Pratt. Sent on a mission to New York by Grady Fring, “the Kredit King,” Norwood has visions of “speeding across the country in a late-model car, seeing all the sights.” Instead, he gets involved in a wild journey that takes him in and out of stolen cars, freight trains, and buses. By the time he returns home to Ralph, Texas, Norwood has met his true love, Rita Lee, on a Trailways bus; befriended Edmund B. Ratner, the second shortest midget in show business and “the world’s smallest perfect fat man”; and helped Joann, “the chicken with a college education,” to realize her true potential in life. As with all of Portis’ fiction, the tone is cool, sympathetic, funny, and undeniably American.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Norwood is my favorite book. Not just my favorite book by Charles Portis, which is a tough call. My favorite book: which, given the first call, is easy. This book should be in every home.”

    Roy Blount, Jr.

  • “Charles Portis is perhaps the most original, indescribable sui generis talent overlooked by literary culture in America. A writer who, if there’s any justice in literary history…will come to be regarded as the author of classics on the order of a twentieth-century Mark Twain.”

    Esquire

  • “Portis’ characters—especially his wandering hero Norwood Pratt—exude a kind of perennial American freshness…Barrett Whitener’s narration is exceptional…This is a narrator whose work should be followed and anticipated with pleasure.”

    Crisis

  • “This quick, hilarious novel is a genuinely entertaining introduction to Portis’ comic brilliance. Imagine Evelyn Waugh as a southerner writing a Seinfeld episode while sipping Mint Juleps on a hot July afternoon…Enormously deadpan and full of sneaky wit.”

    BookSense.com

  • “A fan described Charles Portis as Garrison Keillor on LSD. The day I read Keillor—on acid or otherwise—and find him even half as funny as Portis will be a cold day in hell. Portis’ two comic classics, Norwood and The Dog of the South, have a wonderful, subtle humor not found anywhere today.”

    The Stranger

  • A 2013 Washington Post Best Audiobook

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Katywittmann | 2/20/2014

    " I don't know if I would have liked this book so much if Chase didn't really like it. The more we talked about it the more I liked it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Beth Favini | 2/15/2014

    " Some great chuckles...I enjoyed the language and wit.... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen | 2/12/2014

    " Another comic highlight. Portis is wonderful, inimitable. He can tell a story about nothing like no one else I know. George Saunders has inherited some of this, but Saunders can be a little more brittle and mannered, his characters and situations more surreal. Portis is interested in all the little details of ordinary, not-always-so-bright folks struggling with their drives and limitations, their idees fixes and confusion about the world. Like many of his other books (True Grit, Dog of the South), this is a story about a quest: Norwood's quest to find the man who owes him seventy dollars. That seventy dollars drives the story all the way to New York and back, through a cast of Portis's usual vivid, hilarious characters. This one is a little slighter than Dog of the South, and a little lighter. That's okay; it's a great novel with Portis's stamp all over it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Syco | 2/11/2014

    " Another brilliant book by Charles Portis. Norwood is a lot of fun to read. Norwood is a funny, funny character. I enjoyed his adventures across America, and wished I had been along for the ride. The ending is pretty much perfect. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah | 2/10/2014

    " A short road trip story with some interesting characters and a generous sprinkling of dry humor. A little too slight to get a 4th star from me, but an excellent for a first novel. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sara | 2/1/2014

    " If you like the humor in Confederacy of Dunces, you'll like this. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brent Legault | 1/28/2014

    " Portis is so funny and strange. His style has a teasing smile under its every word. This book didn't break any new ground and it should have been about a hundred pages longer than it was (I rarely say that about any book) and I'm not nearly as besotted with it as Roy Blount Jr. was, but it cleared the way for his greater efforts (Dog of the South, Masters of Atlantis) and our world has been bettered because of it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nate Hendrix | 1/27/2014

    " Not really about anything, but it was funny anyway. The same author as true grit. I will be reading the rest of his books. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeff | 1/26/2014

    " The funniest book I've read in, oh, fifteen years. Also, the way Portis writes--so clean, direct, and perfectly chosen, well, everything--is kind of amazing. You should read this book right this second! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kim Foster | 1/20/2014

    " Cute easy read! The dialect seems spot on! Wasn't a fan of the ending! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Christian | 1/19/2014

    " I dug the voice and humor, although the narrative was pretty light. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Wendy | 1/17/2014

    " I think "True Grit" is the complete package when it comes to an entertaining read. I was curious to see more of Charles Portis' writing. This book rambles and at times I wished I could grab the main character and tattle his teeth! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cary Jones | 1/11/2014

    " As the story ends, Bill Bird says "Now who in the world would want a Lord's Last Supper vinyl tablecloth?" Vernell said "Not me, I think they're tacky" Ha Ha Ha!! Such a funny story. Portis' characterizations of country folk rival some I've read from Barry Hannah. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Doug | 1/7/2014

    " Portis's first novel, Norwood is a picaresque. It's amusing but low-key, colorful characters. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Robert Zimmerman | 1/7/2014

    " Brilliance drives and hilarity rides shotgun in this compact gem of a book. "

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

    " Norwood is such an outstanding character. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Julie | 12/27/2013

    " Did not capture my attention like True Grit and Gringos. I really felt no empathy for the protagonist. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Patti | 12/26/2013

    " This is one of my favorite books ever. It is a short book and maybe took me 5 hours to read. Wonderful characters, funny dialogue and a snapshot of the South in the early '60s. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jpaflas | 12/22/2013

    " This book was a bit goofy, but right in my wheelhouse. Funny,good prose and sort of wacky. An easy read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kathy Strause | 12/17/2013

    " by our own Charles Portis. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brad Dunson | 12/16/2013

    " I rarely laugh out loud when reading a book, and this was the rare exception. Don't read this book in Church. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amy | 12/12/2013

    " Wonderful!Darkly funny, gothic. I think Charles Portis is becoming one of my favorite authors. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Beth Favini | 12/3/2013

    " Some great chuckles...I enjoyed the language and wit.... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Matt Piechocinski | 11/30/2013

    " This book was kind of like if you crossed the southern gentility of William Faulkner with the quirky characters of an Elmore Leonard novel. Great stuff ... I really enjoyed it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris Sivori | 11/26/2013

    " Reading Norwood is comfy like sitting in a rocking chair. Maybe because it's light-hearted and wry. Maybe because I am from the South and love the simplicity (even in the pejorative sense) of the rural South. There's a lot of innocence in Norwood and this is a comfort. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisa | 11/6/2013

    " I see that I'm now going to have to read everything Charles Portis ever wrote. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christopher | 11/5/2013

    " This was pretty funny! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris Gager | 11/3/2013

    " Good fun from a master of the eccentric novel. Not as good as "True Grit" though. Seemed to be straing a bit for it's weirdness. Both films suffered under the burden of Glen Campbell in the cast. Joe Namath was in "Norwood"! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris Gager | 10/26/2013

    " Good fun from a master of the eccentric novel. Not as good as "True Grit" though. Seemed to be straing a bit for it's weirdness. Both films suffered under the burden of Glen Campbell in the cast. Joe Namath was in "Norwood"! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kurt | 10/23/2013

    " The great country-western novel. The runner up might be William Price Fox's Ruby Red. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sherrie | 10/12/2013

    " It's official. My Elmore Leonard fixation will have to be put aside for a while as I work my way through my Charles Portis-itus. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ryan | 9/4/2013

    " A good Portis book; not his best. Short. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sara | 8/10/2013

    " If you like the humor in Confederacy of Dunces, you'll like this. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 McCutcheon | 7/29/2013

    " An American Masterpiece written by an American master of Arts and Letters... You get the idea. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joe | 7/10/2013

    " Vintage Arkansas deadpan. Veers into Werner Herzog/Harmony Korine territory when Norwood boards a Memphis-bound bus with a midget and a chicken. Not as great as Dog Of The South, but not much is. Portis is a genius. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Teri Zipf | 6/30/2013

    " One of my favorite Portis books. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Megan | 5/6/2013

    " I disliked just about every single thing in this book. The "look at me, aren't I clever" writing. The shallow characters with quirks in place of any kind of emotional depth or resonance. By the time I was expected to view a grope on a bus as love, I was actively enraged. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Brigid | 5/1/2013

    " This is one of my favorite books. Portis's narrative style is uncomplicated, yet the emotions and situations he describes are complex and memorable. I can't come up with sufficient words for the way this book makes me feel without resorting to cliches. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Matt Piechocinski | 4/20/2013

    " This book was kind of like if you crossed the southern gentility of William Faulkner with the quirky characters of an Elmore Leonard novel. Great stuff ... I really enjoyed it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brett | 4/5/2013

    " humorous story of a mid-twentieth century road trip from texas to nyc. portis is a master of characters. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kathy Strause | 3/20/2013

    " by our own Charles Portis. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Forest Juziuk | 3/7/2013

    " A very enjoyable, funny, subtle book that's concise: you're never given more than you need. The dialogue, internal & external, is Peach Central. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ben Brackett | 2/13/2013

    " Decent enough, but I kept hoping for something that was either a little more tense or weird like a Harry Crews or Day of the Locust. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Robert Schwab | 12/28/2012

    " This book is laugh-out-loud funny in places; Portis may be the best living writer at characterization. The plot is quirky, like the characters. All in all, a pleasure to read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andy | 9/5/2012

    " Not as good as True Grit, but better than Dog of the South. Basically like Dog of the South in that there isn't much plot, just some guy travelling around running into various characters. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Wilson | 8/10/2012

    " People I know call this book "Snorewood" because they think it is hideously boring. It's actually not that bad and the main character goes on a road trip with a chicken, which is pretty awesome. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 William Randolph | 6/22/2012

    " Very funny stuff. The cadence of the characters' speech never failed to induce hearty chuckles. It's light reading, to be sure, but light reading of the highest quality. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ryan | 6/18/2012

    " Kept thinking of John Steinbeck (Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday, Tortilla Flat). Great voice and humor. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Doug | 9/2/2011

    " Portis's first novel, Norwood is a picaresque. It's amusing but low-key, colorful characters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brad Dunson | 6/23/2011

    " I rarely laugh out loud when reading a book, and this was the rare exception. Don't read this book in Church. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 6/6/2011

    " An excellent first novel. I'm not sure that it quite lives up to the hype. I personally liked Portis's Dog of the South better. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Janis | 6/4/2011

    " Charles Portis is the master of dialogue but, for me, dialogue alone couldn't carry this novel. Still I laughed often and enjoyed the immediacy and wry outlook of his story. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Megan | 5/1/2011

    " I disliked just about every single thing in this book. The "look at me, aren't I clever" writing. The shallow characters with quirks in place of any kind of emotional depth or resonance. By the time I was expected to view a grope on a bus as love, I was actively enraged. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris | 4/28/2011

    " Good fun from a master of the eccentric novel. Not as good as "True Grit" though. Both films suffered
    under the burden of Glen Campbell in the cast. Joe Namath was in "Norwood"! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melissa | 3/14/2011

    " Some lines and conversations were perfectly imperfect and in a sense naturally enjoyable.
    A review compared the author to Mark Twain, but I thought it was more reminiscent of J.D. Salinger. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Billcorcoran | 3/10/2011

    " This was by the author of True Grit, and with the buzz around the movie I thought I'd give this a shot. It was good for a few chuckles but that was about it. I didn't find it hilarious and the paper thin plot left me disappointed. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Leo | 3/8/2011

    " This book clearly represents Portis' style and phrasing, and is a good representative of the late 60's / early 70's kind of "on the road", meandering-type story.
    Great characters, easy reading, understated story. Brilliant!
    "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mike | 1/18/2011

    " Extremely funny. Reminded me of Erskine Caldwell crossed with Damon Runyon. Caldwell gets a mention in the book and the delightful life awaiting Norwood Pratt and his soon-to-be bride may end up on some Tobacco Road. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Msmurphybylaw | 12/15/2010

    " I can't help myself. I need something funny to get me through the holidays.

    Not the best of Charles Portis' books, but his first. And you can see how it sets the tone for his budding genius. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Idabel | 12/12/2010

    " "You must think I got on this bus looking for love." Not really, but love is found, on a bus, with a psychic chicken and a midget along for the ride. And what a ride. "

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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.