August 06, 1979 12:00 PM

by Charles Portis

Ray Midge’s wife, Norma, finds life with him so tedious that she runs off with her first husband, a radical who has threatened the life of the President. Ray follows the two of them to Mexico because they have his car and credit cards. Portis, who previously wrote True Grit, has packed this novel with raffish characters and crazed situations, all highly original and fresh. His people are dreadful—shallow, dumb, naive, drunken, venal and cruel—yet often touchingly real. The Dog of the South—the name of a broken-down bus—says something genuine about the fragmented confusion in many lives today. Most Americans are probably far more like Ray Midge and his bored Norma than they are the mean-spirited people in Heller’s Good as Gold or the nice folks caught in the domestic disarray of John Cheever’s stories. (Knopf, $8.95)

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