Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

Music of the Swamp

Availability: Ready to download

Nordan's fiction invents its own world, a world populated by madly heroic misfits. In MUSIC OF THE SWAMP, he focuses his magic and imagination on a single theme--a boy's utterly helpless love for his utterly hopeless father.


Compare
Ads Banner

Nordan's fiction invents its own world, a world populated by madly heroic misfits. In MUSIC OF THE SWAMP, he focuses his magic and imagination on a single theme--a boy's utterly helpless love for his utterly hopeless father.

30 review for Music of the Swamp

  1. 4 out of 5

    Candi

    4.5 stars "The sound of the rain was without thunder. It was as constant as the feeling of loss that suddenly I felt inside me, that now I knew had been with me all along, a familiar part of me since the beginning of memory." A poignant sense of loneliness seeps through each of these interconnected short stories about a young boy growing up in the fictional town of Arrow Catcher, Mississippi. Yet, it is not a dismal little book; instead, it is laced with humor and nostalgia. One minute my heart wo 4.5 stars "The sound of the rain was without thunder. It was as constant as the feeling of loss that suddenly I felt inside me, that now I knew had been with me all along, a familiar part of me since the beginning of memory." A poignant sense of loneliness seeps through each of these interconnected short stories about a young boy growing up in the fictional town of Arrow Catcher, Mississippi. Yet, it is not a dismal little book; instead, it is laced with humor and nostalgia. One minute my heart would break for Sugar Mecklin, the eleven year old narrator. The next I was laughing out loud and reading phrases over and over again, sharing them with family members that tolerantly smiled in response to my unbridled enthusiasm. Sentences like this that launched me from my couch and set me down directly in the Mississippi Delta of the 1950s: "Late in the summer, deep in August, when the swamps were steam baths, and beavers as big as collies could be seen swimming in Roebuck Lake from a canebrake to a willow shade, I passed my eleventh birthday." Sugar Mecklin yearns for the love of his father, a man damaged from alcoholism as well as plain old bad luck. He longs to understand love, especially the love of his parents for one another. He digs, both metaphorically and literally, to find this meaning, this hidden message of their destructive love. There are a number of other characters in these stories, each with their own brand of dysfunction. Sugar tries to make sense of these, too. I remember as a kid trying to ‘get’ my parents, attempting to figure out if other families were like mine. Hoping that I wasn’t the only one with the same disappointments, the same dreams. Wishing with all my heart to find a connection to another young person that felt much like I did… a confidante with whom to both commiserate and scheme. Sugar strikes up a friendship with what he calls a ‘white-trash’ kid, someone who is perhaps steeped in even more misery than the Mecklins. What at first starts out to be a grudging sort of alliance born out of curiosity and pity eventually turns into a stirring little intimacy of the heart between two boys that share at least one thing in common: their isolation. "It felt good to be hungry and to expect no food to relieve the hunger. It was easy to pay the small price of a night’s hunger for the sweet isolation that Roy Dale and I were allowed to share." There is a dash of magical realism in many of these stories, the magic of childhood, of innocence and dreams. It is a gritty novel that is beautifully written and punctuated with longing. Music of the Swamp left me thirsting for more. "I said—and even as I invented this I believed it—I said that in the foreign-language music of her song my ears and my heart opened up to a world larger and more generous than the world of my parents and our geography."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    Not many authors can mix humor, poignancy, tragedy and philosophy so successfully, but Louis Nordan was up to the challenge. Very loosely based on his own childhood in the Mississippi Delta, he lets us enter his 11 year old psyche to smell, touch, hear and see his surroundings. Was there ever a sadder loser than Sugar's father Gilbert, or a wife and mother who tried so hard? The last sentence in this book sums it all up without giving anything away. "There is great pain in all love, but we don't Not many authors can mix humor, poignancy, tragedy and philosophy so successfully, but Louis Nordan was up to the challenge. Very loosely based on his own childhood in the Mississippi Delta, he lets us enter his 11 year old psyche to smell, touch, hear and see his surroundings. Was there ever a sadder loser than Sugar's father Gilbert, or a wife and mother who tried so hard? The last sentence in this book sums it all up without giving anything away. "There is great pain in all love, but we don't care, it's worth it." If you're not familiar with Louis Nordan, do yourself a favor and give one of his books a try. He's one of a kind, and deserves to be better known.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    I don't blame my father. What would be the point? There is a sense in which I blame the geography itself, though that, of course, is useless as well. So much promise, so much innocence, such powerful imagination that transforms the world into a magical realm full of wonder and song. Where does it all go? When does it all turn to dust and ashes? 10 year old Sugar Mecklin wakes every morning in the small town of Arrow Catcher expecting to find mermaids singing to him from the murky waters of the I don't blame my father. What would be the point? There is a sense in which I blame the geography itself, though that, of course, is useless as well. So much promise, so much innocence, such powerful imagination that transforms the world into a magical realm full of wonder and song. Where does it all go? When does it all turn to dust and ashes? 10 year old Sugar Mecklin wakes every morning in the small town of Arrow Catcher expecting to find mermaids singing to him from the murky waters of the Mississipi Delta. What he discovers instead is a week old corpse tangled in the reeds. And when Sugar goes for comfort to his father, he finds Mecklin Sr. lost in a drunken stupor, listening to wrist-cutting music on the turntable. To quote Nick Hornby: Is he depressed because he listens to the blues? Or does he listen to the blues because he is depressed? ... the true music of the swamp is not the symphony of nature heard by the boy but the lonesome cry of Robert Johnson's guitar at a midnight crossroads, the wailing of Sonny Boy Williamson's harmonica , the cracked voice of Bessie Smith or the roaring of Howling Wolf. Daddy said, "It's funny how you end up somewhere, and then that's your life." Sugar Mecklin idolizes his father and most probably his father loves him back, but the words remain locked inside their hearts and there is no bridge to cross the muddy waters between them. What turns a man to heavy drinking when he has a beautiful wife and an intelligent boy by his side? Poverty, broken dreams, the scars from the war in Korea, the tediousness of daily toil, the stormy weather and the relentless heat? Or the secrets that he cannot spill in the innocent ear of his child? (view spoiler)[ very late in the book it is revealed that he is not the true father of the boy. But raising Sugar should count for more than the biological data (hide spoiler)] Sugar Mecklin has no answers for his father's anger at the world, only a restlessness and undefined rebelliousness. The slow demise of his youthful exuberance is mapped out in heartbreaking detail by Lewis Nordan in a series of interconnected short stories describing life in poverty stricken Arrow Catcher. The prose is exquisite, almost magical in its power to capture the sense of place and the lives of the white trash community. Each story is centered on an object or an image that focuses the threads of memory and give meaning to past experiences: a bedroom ceiling painted with fluorescent stars, paling in comparison with the full moon hanging outside the window; a foldable shovel that the young Sugar Mecklin is using to furiously dig up the yard, looking for corpses or for his lost illusions; a flooded cellar filled with swimming rats; a cargo train that my lead to a different life out of town; a shiny new hunting rifle received as a gift on a birthday that is never taken out on a hunt; the burning wreck of a family car. The most powerful image of them all is for me from the vacation Sugar parents take on the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of a hurricane. The endless beach filled with broken houses, whale corpses and carrion birds is a clear message of the futility of trying to mend a broken marriage. You can hold back the tide of destruction for a little while with an Elvis tune playing on the radio of your convertible, but in the end you must come back to your real life in the swamp. I wish this story ended more happily than it actually does. All this happened a long time ago, and now I'm middle-aged and have been going to Don't Drink meetings for a good long while myself. There is a good deal of wreckage in my own past, a family I hurt in the same way my father hurt me, and the same way his father hurt him. I tore my children up as fine as cat's hair, you might say. The more we love, the more we open ourselves to hurt, and the more we rebel against the sins of our fathers, the more we resemble them later in life. Lewis Nordan though manages to exorcise his inner demons through art and through the personal of his fictional alter ego, Sugar Mecklin. For such a slim book, it sure packs a heavy punch, and I am mostly grateful for being offered a glimpse of the way the song of life is played in the Mississippi Delta. I also know I will try to read some of the other novels by Nordan, a true master of the Southern style in American Literature.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Connie G

    "Music of the Swamp" is a gritty look at the childhood of a boy living in the Mississippi Delta. Sugar Mecklin lives in a dysfunctional family, but his greatest hope is to be loved by his alcoholic father. Sugar is a sweet eleven-year-old kid trying to figure out life. The book is composed of interconnected stories with some unforgettable eccentric characters. Many are physically or psychologically damaged people dealing with poverty, alcohol, and bad luck. A dose of Lewis Nordan's humor, along "Music of the Swamp" is a gritty look at the childhood of a boy living in the Mississippi Delta. Sugar Mecklin lives in a dysfunctional family, but his greatest hope is to be loved by his alcoholic father. Sugar is a sweet eleven-year-old kid trying to figure out life. The book is composed of interconnected stories with some unforgettable eccentric characters. Many are physically or psychologically damaged people dealing with poverty, alcohol, and bad luck. A dose of Lewis Nordan's humor, along with a sprinkle of magical realism and good writing, helps show the crazy, funny side of some tough situations in this sleepy Mississippi town.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Robinson

    Not so much a novel as a series of childhood stories of a boy named Sugar Mecklin growing up in rural Mississippi with his drunk father and beautiful mother. The writing is beautiful and the infusion of really horrible stuff with love makes it laugh-out-loud funny sometimes. One could imagine this is lightly fictionalized memoir if not for the final essay by Nordan: “Music of the Swamp: The Invention of Sugar, An Essay about Life in Fiction—and Vice Versa.” Nordan spills the beans about how we w Not so much a novel as a series of childhood stories of a boy named Sugar Mecklin growing up in rural Mississippi with his drunk father and beautiful mother. The writing is beautiful and the infusion of really horrible stuff with love makes it laugh-out-loud funny sometimes. One could imagine this is lightly fictionalized memoir if not for the final essay by Nordan: “Music of the Swamp: The Invention of Sugar, An Essay about Life in Fiction—and Vice Versa.” Nordan spills the beans about how we writers lie and believe our own lies and why we do it. I kind of wish I’d savored the end of the book at least a day before reading the essay. It’s a sweet book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Katzman

    Music of the Swamp is a deeply sad novel. One that explores the terrain of severely dysfunctional families. The story is set in the late 50s or early 60s in a backwoods town in the South. It's essentially a swamp town inhabited by classic white trash families burdened by lack of education, little work, extreme poverty and alcohol and drug addictions. The main story follows a young boy named Sugar Mecklin who both adores and hates his barely coherent alcoholic father. Nordan is a very strong write Music of the Swamp is a deeply sad novel. One that explores the terrain of severely dysfunctional families. The story is set in the late 50s or early 60s in a backwoods town in the South. It's essentially a swamp town inhabited by classic white trash families burdened by lack of education, little work, extreme poverty and alcohol and drug addictions. The main story follows a young boy named Sugar Mecklin who both adores and hates his barely coherent alcoholic father. Nordan is a very strong writer. I didn't truly "enjoy" this book as much as The Sharpshooter Blues, but he continued his demonstration of powerful writerly skill. The characters are peculiar and impenetrable but believable. The settings and sense of place is incredibly rich and vivid. The setting is perhaps even more interesting than the main character. I did find it hard to empathize with the main character despite his general innocence. I couldn't quite find a way in to him, to recognize him. Even so, there was a sense of raw honesty in his struggle to grow up surrounded by such bizarre failures and creeps that populated his life. The overarching theme is that of the missing father. The absence of a strong yet intimate relationship between a boy and his father. The failure of a marriage also due to alcoholism and a lack of intimacy. The pain of the absence. The pain of a hole in one's life. The book rather lacks any exploration of what happens later. The adult experience of a childhood ruined. It's touched on briefly, that the relationship dysfunctions and issues with alcohol are often inherited in their own way. But without great depth. That is perhaps the greatest weakness of this book. But as a study of the pain experienced in childhood from an absentee parent, it succeeds powerfully.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Wyndy

    “I don’t blame my father. What would be the point?” ~ Sugar Mecklin, age 10 4.5 stars. This is a haunting and sometimes hilarious series of nine connected stories (and a powerful epilogue) about a young boy named Sugar Mecklin growing up in the Mississippi Delta in the 1950’s. You have to love Sugar - all he wants is to understand and connect with his crazy alcoholic daddy and make some sense out of his parents’ bizarre relationship. Lewis Nordan filled this novel to overflowing with iconic South “I don’t blame my father. What would be the point?” ~ Sugar Mecklin, age 10 4.5 stars. This is a haunting and sometimes hilarious series of nine connected stories (and a powerful epilogue) about a young boy named Sugar Mecklin growing up in the Mississippi Delta in the 1950’s. You have to love Sugar - all he wants is to understand and connect with his crazy alcoholic daddy and make some sense out of his parents’ bizarre relationship. Lewis Nordan filled this novel to overflowing with iconic Southern images of “white-trash” rural folk, smoky honky tonks, Mason jars with “hot paraffin lids,” glass bottles of “Co-Cola” in wooden crates, Wonder Bread, and oilcloth tablecloths (the kind you wipe, not wash). And then he mixed in some music from the swamp - Bessie Smith belting out the Delta blues on a 45 vinyl, the boogie-woogie beat (“eight notes - five up the scale and three down”), and Jimmie Rodgers singing “Honeycomb.” And there are several scenes in this book that I will never forget, but I’ll let you discover them on your own. This is a 1950’s Southern time capsule with a strong slant toward the dysfunctional and eccentric and filled with love in a thousand different forms. Nordan’s writing has a melancholy, tender touch here that really resonated with me. A few parts felt slightly mystical and YA for me, and I ocassionally had a “I’ve read this already” reaction, but these are minor criticisms. I now have to add his second novel ‘Wolf Whistle’ to my must-read Southern Lit pile. Yet another gem selected by the GR group ‘On The Southern Literary Trail.’ “There is great pain in all love, but we don’t care, it’s worth it.” ~ Sugar Mecklin, as an adult

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This is a collection of short stories but all of them are told by the same narrator, Sugar, making the flow perfect. The author does a fabulous job presenting tragedy but then relieving the reader with comedy. Basically, one minute I'm overcome with sadness and then I burst out laughing. This is going on my favorite shelf and one that deserves to be reread in the future. Many thanks to Moderator, Diane B, for choosing this book for On the Southern Literary Trail Book Club.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    There is great pain in all love, but we don’t care, it’s worth it. At times I was at a loss to know how to feel about this collection of interrelated short stories that center around the life of Sugar Mecklin, a boy from the Mississippi delta. The first story was rather funny, I particularly liked that Sugar’s friend was named Sweet Austin. I mean, only in the Delta would you find kids named “Sugar” and “Sweet”. But as the book progressed, the humor gave way to a kind of poignant sadness, and a There is great pain in all love, but we don’t care, it’s worth it. At times I was at a loss to know how to feel about this collection of interrelated short stories that center around the life of Sugar Mecklin, a boy from the Mississippi delta. The first story was rather funny, I particularly liked that Sugar’s friend was named Sweet Austin. I mean, only in the Delta would you find kids named “Sugar” and “Sweet”. But as the book progressed, the humor gave way to a kind of poignant sadness, and a feeling of the desperate hopelessness of a life in this town at the edge of the swamp. By the time I reached the epilogue, I felt the sunny hopeful life of this boy had been drowned in the rising waters that come in the aftermath of the hurricane Sugar and his mother endure. It seemed a metaphor for their life with Sugar’s unpredictable and sometimes violent father. I was left with the fear and conviction that Sugar had indeed become his father or his blind grandfather, a spiteful and sinister old man. There is something deeply disturbing about two young boys sitting at the top of a staircase that leads into the cellar and watching the rats swimming in the flood waters. There is something terribly troubling about a mother telling her four year old son that he will “always be white trash.” There is something sad and crippling about a young girl whose mother spends far more than she has to throw a birthday party that no one shows up for. In the end, I felt this book was far and away more sorrowful than uplifting and the music coming from the swamp would have been more mournful than sweet. By the end, I was casting back to the beginning, the joy of life that Sugar was experiencing when he heard his first Elvis song and the songs of the black church members that floated up from the river baptism. shall we gather at the river, the beautiful, beautiful river, but this is indeed not a river, this is a swamp. Perhaps the pain was worth it, but I kept thinking the miracle was that there was any love to recall.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Camie

    Short stories told by Sugar Mecklin an 11 year old boy growing up in small town Mississippi. His father (whom he cherishes) is a depressed alcoholic who pretty much has terrible luck and his poor mother is always trying to set his world to rights. The stories are told with plenty of humor and added touches of magical realism which in part helps offset some of the more disparaging themes. I especially liked the last chapters when Sugar is an adult looking back over the years. Read for OTSLT Modera Short stories told by Sugar Mecklin an 11 year old boy growing up in small town Mississippi. His father (whom he cherishes) is a depressed alcoholic who pretty much has terrible luck and his poor mother is always trying to set his world to rights. The stories are told with plenty of humor and added touches of magical realism which in part helps offset some of the more disparaging themes. I especially liked the last chapters when Sugar is an adult looking back over the years. Read for OTSLT Moderators choice 2/19 3.5 stars

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    The music of the swamp, and the magic of the swamp, and the utterly helpless love for the utterly hopeless, and the dreams that might prove once and for all to be true. Holy hell, this was good. I’m glad I’ve got more Lewis Nordan here to dive right into. We were like spoons together. We were like swamp-elves. And in this way we went to sleep, bare-assed children, the two of us, and in my memory not blameworthy for any sin and not even victims of the sins of our sad fathers, but, only that moment The music of the swamp, and the magic of the swamp, and the utterly helpless love for the utterly hopeless, and the dreams that might prove once and for all to be true. Holy hell, this was good. I’m glad I’ve got more Lewis Nordan here to dive right into. We were like spoons together. We were like swamp-elves. And in this way we went to sleep, bare-assed children, the two of us, and in my memory not blameworthy for any sin and not even victims of the sins of our sad fathers, but, only that moment, in love with what is and what has always been or what might forever be.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    The only thing wrong with this collection of short stories, told by main character Sugar Mecklin, is that there were not enough of them. Sugar, a young boy with a depressed mother and alcoholic father in the depressed state of Mississippi, tells the story of his life through his youthful eyes and his vivid imagination. Raw at times and funny at others, Norton created this set of stories around the need to love and be loved by your father.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Charles Michael Fischer

    There are no adequate words to describe this novel's beauty: "My mother made me a birthday cake in the shape of a rabbit--she had a cake pan molded in that shape--and she decorated it with chocolate icing and stuck on carrot slices for the eyes. It was a difficult cake to make stand up straight, but with various props it would balance on its hind legs on the plate, so that when I came into the room it looked almost real standing there, its little front feet tucked up to its chest. At the sight o There are no adequate words to describe this novel's beauty: "My mother made me a birthday cake in the shape of a rabbit--she had a cake pan molded in that shape--and she decorated it with chocolate icing and stuck on carrot slices for the eyes. It was a difficult cake to make stand up straight, but with various props it would balance on its hind legs on the plate, so that when I came into the room it looked almost real standing there, its little front feet tucked up to its chest. At the sight of the rabbit I started to cry. My mother was startled by my tears. She had been standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room. The table was set with a white tablecloth and linen napkins, three settings for my birthday dinner. I could not stop crying, looking at that rabbit cake. I knew that my mother loved me, I knew something of her grief--something in the desperate innocence of the rabbit, its little carrot eyes. I thought of the hopelessness of all love, and that is why I was crying, I think. My mother came to me and held me to her and I felt her warmth and smelled her woman-smell. I wanted to dance with her at the Legion Hut. I wanted to give her a gift of earthworms" (69). Or: "When I was a child of eleven, there as a snail-slow freight train of a dozen cars or less that dragged its back legs through town each morning like a sorry dog and even stopped momentarily for God knows what reason at the Arrow Catcher depot and rested itself long to catch its breath and then, as if hopelessly, gathered its strength once again and set out on its asthmatic straining greasy little diesel motion towards the Mississippi River, some forty miles west of where I lived" (71).

  14. 4 out of 5

    SheilaRaeO

    A darkly funny novel told in the manner of a memoir. A fantastical telling of a white trash life on the Delta. Nordan gives a voice to Sugar Mecklin as he grows up in Mississippi with an alcoholic step-father and a few misfit friends. It reminded me of the Bobby Gentry song "Ode to Billie Joe". Nothing was thrown of any bridges, but plenty of mystery and pre-occupied adults. As a final thought I will add that I went right to my bookstore when I finished this book and bought another by this autho A darkly funny novel told in the manner of a memoir. A fantastical telling of a white trash life on the Delta. Nordan gives a voice to Sugar Mecklin as he grows up in Mississippi with an alcoholic step-father and a few misfit friends. It reminded me of the Bobby Gentry song "Ode to Billie Joe". Nothing was thrown of any bridges, but plenty of mystery and pre-occupied adults. As a final thought I will add that I went right to my bookstore when I finished this book and bought another by this author because I want to "listen to his voice" tell me more about this delta life. Looking forward to reading "The Sharpshooter Blues" next.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

    This is the book I wish I had written. Magical Realism mixed with a family drama that keeps the reader on their toes. Set in a mythical town in the South, this book is a storyteller's work on a page. There are so many passages that stand alone as moving descriptions or fantasic dialogue. You can go back to any part of this book and read it as a part and it works, but when read as a whole this dark comedy makes me wish I could be Lewis Nordon so that I could say "Yeah, I wrote that".

  16. 5 out of 5

    Henrietta Cottingham

    After Wolf Whistle I had to read more... and I binged. Like Raymond Carver of the NW, Lewis Nordan gives the dirty realism of the bayou. The characters are immediate. The atmosphere is palpable to the point of smell. I recommend Wolf Whistle first. Same characters in rotating-revolving situations. Thank you Oxford American magazine for doing an article on this writer who is be a long standing new favorite.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    There were many sad and intolerable moments for the characters of this book. However, Sugar Mecklin and the humorous moments Nordan chose to mix in held the book together and made for a good story.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    This sounded like something I would like. I have started it four or five times, but just can’t get any interest worked up. Time to call it quits and let it go.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Abeer Hoque

    I may have read the Music of the Swamp by Lewis Nordan in too close succession to Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. They are both about sensitive adolescent boys growing up in the country (one American South, one English) and the strange and wild things that happen to them. "There are worse things than being so lonely you could die." Neil Gaiman's protagnoist lives more in the fantastical realm, but no less real and beautiful and sensate an environs for it. Mr. Nordan's book is squa I may have read the Music of the Swamp by Lewis Nordan in too close succession to Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. They are both about sensitive adolescent boys growing up in the country (one American South, one English) and the strange and wild things that happen to them. "There are worse things than being so lonely you could die." Neil Gaiman's protagnoist lives more in the fantastical realm, but no less real and beautiful and sensate an environs for it. Mr. Nordan's book is squarely in the real, a tragic gorgeous Southern tale. I've not seen language used like this, so informally, so formally, so mixed up and perfect. Faulkner (my literary hero) does it different. He never swerves from poetry. Mr. Nordan, on the other hand, uses slang and childhood, bruise and bluebell with equal affecting grace. "Yikes! the clarinet said, like a sad swamp bird, and yes yes yes." Our young hero, Sugar Mecklin, has a beautiful hapless mother, a nutso father, and a world so senselessly violent and beautiful, it will drive you insane. The litanies alone are reason enough to read, even when they border on American mango-breastiness. "I thought of the soft fragrances of swamp water and wood rot. I thought of cypress and mimosa." Music is as much a part of this world as the visual, from Bessie Smith, the blues singer, who haunts Sugar's father, "I ain't good looking she sang but I'm somebody's angel child" to Elvis Presley whose music made "you visible to yourself and invisible to others." It doesn't matter that the story is about the place more than the people, about the feeling not the source, that the narrative lets each harrowing detail fall into oblivion once the chapter passes. Every page is a revelation. "The whole gaggle and pride of viral and damaged children would leap for cover." "She drives an ancient explosive Pinto beneath wide blue Mississippi skies." "…bean fields shrouded in dragonflies… Always twilight, never day and never dark." There are birds in the book (I think) that are referred to over and over again, called swamp elves, and I didn't look them up until after I was done because I didn't want to know what they really were, because if they were less than I imagined, or imaginary altogether, it would be too much (it turns out they are wrens, of a sort). I'll leave you with this one perfect impossible request, one that Sugar's father tells him towards the end of the book, one that we could spend a lifetime wondering: "Ask the right question. Ask the same question over and over. Ask the only question there is."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    Admittedly, I groaned when I pulled this book from its bag in the Brown Bag reading group that I belong to; the idea is that you're not supposed to look until you get the book home, but we all look at our next book, while waiting for the meeting to start. Anyway, what I gathered from the back of the book made me decide that, well, I would give it a try; I was thinking maybe the 42-page attempt, if even that. Having given up most southern fiction some years back (although I still look forward to a Admittedly, I groaned when I pulled this book from its bag in the Brown Bag reading group that I belong to; the idea is that you're not supposed to look until you get the book home, but we all look at our next book, while waiting for the meeting to start. Anyway, what I gathered from the back of the book made me decide that, well, I would give it a try; I was thinking maybe the 42-page attempt, if even that. Having given up most southern fiction some years back (although I still look forward to an afternoon with a Rita Mae Brown or Laura Childs mystery), all I could see were elements that far from recommended this novel to me: Mississippi, the Delta, a [male] character named Sugar...oh good heavens. Southern Gothic at its worst. I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I was entranced by the first paragraph, which just rolls softly, nearly stream-of-consciousness. The first in this collection of interconnected stories is in third person, and introduces Sugar, and the other stories are narrated by Sugar himself. I thought that, in the beginning, the tone or voice changed; by the end, I wasn't so sure. What I was sure of was that Lewis Nordan writes beautifully and I slapped myself in the forehead more than once more than once while reading this exquisite book, because I couldn't believe I'd never even heard his name. Music of the Swamp is hilarious and heartbreaking...sometimes all at once. And it's not just because of Sugar, but because of the people in his Delta town...his parents and friends and neighbors. I love laughing and crying at the same time, don't you?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nafisa Choudhury

    Music of the Swamp is a book essentially about a broken home, and it mostly is about the relationship between a depressed father and a hopeful son. Well, unsurprisingly, it's a depressing book. It's heartfelt and sad, thematic and memorable. However, I have a few problems with the writing style. It's not very cohesive as a story, with huge time shifts that I didn't really contributed to the emotions it set up. The beginning of the book was so much at odds with the rest too, especially in terms of Music of the Swamp is a book essentially about a broken home, and it mostly is about the relationship between a depressed father and a hopeful son. Well, unsurprisingly, it's a depressing book. It's heartfelt and sad, thematic and memorable. However, I have a few problems with the writing style. It's not very cohesive as a story, with huge time shifts that I didn't really contributed to the emotions it set up. The beginning of the book was so much at odds with the rest too, especially in terms of voice. It felt like the beginning belonged in a different book. I also felt like it dwelt too long on unnecessary details for me to fit enjoy it. Basically, it dragged at places. Overall, it was okay.

  22. 4 out of 5

    David

    This is a beautifully told story. Nordan uses the adult looking backward technique to construct his child narrator, which I am normally not so fond of. However, he manages to pull it off without losing the magic and beauty of the child world. A lot of writers I've seen use the technique to bring in thoughts and judgments that the child cannot supply, but end up changing the wondrous world of the child to the cold sterility of the adult. Nordan doesn't fall into that trap. Maybe it's because the This is a beautifully told story. Nordan uses the adult looking backward technique to construct his child narrator, which I am normally not so fond of. However, he manages to pull it off without losing the magic and beauty of the child world. A lot of writers I've seen use the technique to bring in thoughts and judgments that the child cannot supply, but end up changing the wondrous world of the child to the cold sterility of the adult. Nordan doesn't fall into that trap. Maybe it's because the adult Sugar doesn't really have an ultimate understanding of the novel either. He still wonders as an adult just as he did as a child. There are some things he understands as an adult that he did not when the things actually happened, but the ultimate meaning is still tantalizingly beyond his grasp. I think that helps preserve the child world unspoiled by the ravages of maturity. However he manages it, the story ends up touching and remarkable.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Linda Campbell

    I just read this book the second time (amazing for me to do). I found it at a thrift store about a year ago and just read it a couple of months ago, and then reread last week. It is very Southern, in the best way...weird characters acting very realistically. I am from Memphis originally, and believe I have my own "southern style" of thinking and writing, so these characters are very true in my mind. There's roosters and dead bodies and drunks and figs in syrup and Bessie Smith and much more. I I just read this book the second time (amazing for me to do). I found it at a thrift store about a year ago and just read it a couple of months ago, and then reread last week. It is very Southern, in the best way...weird characters acting very realistically. I am from Memphis originally, and believe I have my own "southern style" of thinking and writing, so these characters are very true in my mind. There's roosters and dead bodies and drunks and figs in syrup and Bessie Smith and much more. I want to find Lewis Nordan's other books. This novel is considered short...191pp small format...but plenty long enough. Nordan teaches (or at least taught at time of this book, 1992) at U of Pittsburgh. Would LOVE to have him as a teacher, at least for a semester.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    "Douglas' only ambition when he grew up was to become an apple. Mrs. Conroy, his mother, was an angry woman. She seemed especially angry at Douglas, the child of low ambition...Once he wanted to be a cork. That night his mother cried herself to sleep while Runt sat lovingly beside her bed and wrung his hands and said, 'He could do worse, darling, he could do a lot worse.'"

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Nordan can write an amazing sentence. This "novel" of connected stories tells the tale of a father, but more interesting is the backdrop of the Delta as authenticated by Nordan's origins in Itta Bena. I borrowed this book from a friend a bought it halfway through reading. I know that I will read these stories many more times, not just for enjoyment, but in attempt to learn lessons of the craft.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Meg Merriet

    Damn. What a fascinating gem of southern lit. Nordan knows how to rip your guts out with his masterful storytelling and rhythmic prose. Ask the right questions, he shows us. You don't have to blindly be a product of your culture. My favorite scene-one of them-is his grotesque exorcism of his racist heritage after his grandfather spouts a bunch of racist hate speech: "I got up from the dinner table that night and left the house without speaking to anyone. I walked straight to the Baptist church a Damn. What a fascinating gem of southern lit. Nordan knows how to rip your guts out with his masterful storytelling and rhythmic prose. Ask the right questions, he shows us. You don't have to blindly be a product of your culture. My favorite scene-one of them-is his grotesque exorcism of his racist heritage after his grandfather spouts a bunch of racist hate speech: "I got up from the dinner table that night and left the house without speaking to anyone. I walked straight to the Baptist church and climbed into the loft and, with a four-foot board, I swatted down a metallic-colored pigeon from the rafters and stomped it till its hard eyes popped out, and pulled out all its feathers and stuffed them in my mouth and puked and swore I would never say, not even to condemn it as evil, the word nigger for the rest of my life."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    I really love this book. The Mississippi Delta is a mysterious place where music and water are constants, and this author has caught it beautifully. I'm reminded of the folks in Jesmyn Ward's wonderful Salvage the Bones. Mr. Nordan caused me to chuckle frequently, and a couple of lines caused me to guffaw! Of course others caused some serious reflection and a good bit of sadness -- and isn't this cover just perfect?!! "Self-pity, self-dramatization -- the boring death-haunted thoughts of an alcoho I really love this book. The Mississippi Delta is a mysterious place where music and water are constants, and this author has caught it beautifully. I'm reminded of the folks in Jesmyn Ward's wonderful Salvage the Bones. Mr. Nordan caused me to chuckle frequently, and a couple of lines caused me to guffaw! Of course others caused some serious reflection and a good bit of sadness -- and isn't this cover just perfect?!! "Self-pity, self-dramatization -- the boring death-haunted thoughts of an alcoholic, nothing more." "With the proper tools a patio could have been built from my mother's rice."

  28. 5 out of 5

    Isabella Morris

    It was an incredible gift to come across Lewis Nordan’s Music of the Swamp. This short story cycle is basically a long lyric, it’s music on the page. It’s the soundtrack of poverty in the American South, it’s fear and longing and love set to music. It’s about a little boy called Sugar Mecklin, whose dad is a drunk, but even so, he loves him desperately. It’s a book dripping with the cloying heat and damp of the South and green skies that hang over a childhood and life that Sugar longs to escape It was an incredible gift to come across Lewis Nordan’s Music of the Swamp. This short story cycle is basically a long lyric, it’s music on the page. It’s the soundtrack of poverty in the American South, it’s fear and longing and love set to music. It’s about a little boy called Sugar Mecklin, whose dad is a drunk, but even so, he loves him desperately. It’s a book dripping with the cloying heat and damp of the South and green skies that hang over a childhood and life that Sugar longs to escape from, whether it’s spending a night at a poorer child’s house, or taking train journeys out of his hometown. A writer I will definitely read again.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Webster

    Sad, beautiful, funny. Lewis Nordan was a genius. Could anyone else have described those rats swimming in Roy Dale's basement in such a way that I could see the expression on their faces? In my mind they weren't rats at all, but children enjoying the day at the neighborhood swimming pool. "Earnest little faces and diamond-bright eyes, moving through the water, swimming for dear life, no doubt, but as if for pleasure. It was rats. A dozen or more of them. Large doglike barn rats, swimming quietly Sad, beautiful, funny. Lewis Nordan was a genius. Could anyone else have described those rats swimming in Roy Dale's basement in such a way that I could see the expression on their faces? In my mind they weren't rats at all, but children enjoying the day at the neighborhood swimming pool. "Earnest little faces and diamond-bright eyes, moving through the water, swimming for dear life, no doubt, but as if for pleasure. It was rats. A dozen or more of them. Large doglike barn rats, swimming quietly and without desperation along the black surface of this cellar sea."

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    Loved the writer’s language and style. Enjoyed some stories (chapters) more than others. Tragic characters throughout made it a little too depressing to “like” it beyond my appreciation of the writer’s talent.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.