Last weekend I read Norwood by Charles Portis on a Peter Pan Bus from NYC to Northampton, Massachusetts. Tremendously funny and sharp, a pre-cursor to the Coen Brothers. And not just hee-haw, but vivid to the point of effortless grace: one man is described as “holding out his tongue like he was waiting for a coin.” Everyone in Norwood is breezy and distinct, even the people “driving the conflict,” which makes it kind of avant-garde, right? For one or two sentence characterization and all-around deft awesomeness, I’ve not read much better recently than Charles Portis. Why is this post a snippet? Because Ed Park already wrote an awesome essay about Portis. Now let’s all read everything Portis has written and gab about it.
“It was all right,” said Norwood. “Some hobo got my boots on the train. He was one more slick customer. He took ’em right off my feet and I didn’t see him or hear him. Yeah, and I wisht I could get aholt of that sapsucker. He’d think boots. I wouldn’t care if it was the hobo king. It may of been the hobo king. He was plenty slick. Well, I’m not being serious there.”
“About what, the king?”
“They have a got a king. That’s right, this is no lie, I read this. They have got them a king just like England and France and he rules over every tramp in America just like…a king.”
Has anyone else here heard about this boxcar monarch? Is he in Bulfinch? I’m ready to swear allegiance to him right this second, I swear to gawd. Now taking applications for inclusion on a road trip to the Big Rock Candy Mountain.