Music of the Swamp

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Overview

“This is not merely a stellar book. It is absolute ballad put to page.”*

Lewis Nordan’s fiction invents its own world—always populated by madly heroic misfits. In Music of the Swamp, he focuses his magic and imagination on a boy’s utterly helpless love for his utterly hopeless father—a man who attracts bad luck like a magnet. Nordan evokes ten-year-old Sugar Mecklin’s world with dazzling clarity: the smells, the tastes, and most surely the ...

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Music of the Swamp

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Overview

“This is not merely a stellar book. It is absolute ballad put to page.”*

Lewis Nordan’s fiction invents its own world—always populated by madly heroic misfits. In Music of the Swamp, he focuses his magic and imagination on a boy’s utterly helpless love for his utterly hopeless father—a man who attracts bad luck like a magnet. Nordan evokes ten-year-old Sugar Mecklin’s world with dazzling clarity: the smells, the tastes, and most surely the sounds of life in this peculiar, somewhat bizarre, Delta town. Sugar discovers that what his daddy says is true: “The Delta is filled up with death”; but he also finds an endless supply of hope.

An ALA Notable Book
A Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Fiction Award

“Conjures up a Southern-fried childhood that’s as dark, hilarious and affecting as any you’re likely to encounter.” —The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Nordan provoke[s] a cringe of pain right after the belly laugh. His books . . . are very funny and deep-down sad, stirring up great heaps of emotion.” —New York Newsday

“A bittersweet melody syncopated with sadness relieved by moments of all-too-human comedy . . . ‘There is great pain in all love,’ Sugar eventually concludes, ‘but we don’t care, it’s worth it.’ Mr. Nordan’s enchanting Music of the Swamp bears poignant witness to that truth.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Nordan introduces a group of characters as wild and woolly, as unpredictable, outrageous and violence-prone as the land that spawns them.” —Chicago Tribune

“Like a hypnotic Bessie Smith ballad, Nordan’s book bids you listen.” —*Southern Living

Nordan focuses his magic and imagination on a single theme--a boy's utterly helpless love for his utterly hopeless father. "Lyrically conjures up a Southern-fried childhood that's as dark, hilarious, and affecting as any you're likely to encounter."--Cleveland Plain Dealer. 1992 ALA Notable Book.

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Editorial Reviews

Review quotes

“Lordy, Lordy, can Lewis Nordan write! Horrible things happen, and horribly funny things, too, in the Delta town of Arrow Catcher, Miss.” —Los Angeles Times

“A bittersweet melody syncopated with sadness relieved by moments of all-too-human comedy . . . ‘There is great pain in all love,’ Sugar eventually concludes, ‘but we don’t care, it’s worth it.’ Mr. Nordan’s enchanting Music of the Swamp bears poignant witness to that truth.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Conjures up a Southern-fried childhood that’s as dark, hilarious, and affecting as any you’re likely to encounter.” —The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Lewis Nordan is one of those Southern writers who provoke a cringe of pain right after the belly laugh. [His books] are very funny and deep-down sad, stirring up great heaps of emotion.” —New York Newsday

“Nordan introduces a group of characters as wild and woolly, as unpredictable, outrageous and violence-prone as the land that spawns them.” —Chicago Tribune

“This is not merely a stellar book. It is absolute ballad put to page, a stunning composition about the awakening of young Sugar Mecklin to a mystical world of fantasy, illusion, and harsh reality . . . Like a hypnotic Bessie Smith ballad, Nordan’s book bids you listen.” —Southern Living

From the Publisher
“Lordy, Lordy, can Lewis Nordan write! Horrible things happen, and horribly funny things, too, in the Delta town of Arrow Catcher, Miss.” —Los Angeles Times

“A bittersweet melody syncopated with sadness relieved by moments of all-too-human comedy . . . ‘There is great pain in all love,’ Sugar eventually concludes, ‘but we don’t care, it’s worth it.’ Mr. Nordan’s enchanting Music of the Swamp bears poignant witness to that truth.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Conjures up a Southern-fried childhood that’s as dark, hilarious, and affecting as any you’re likely to encounter.” —The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Lewis Nordan is one of those Southern writers who provoke a cringe of pain right after the belly laugh. [His books] are very funny and deep-down sad, stirring up great heaps of emotion.” —New York Newsday

“Nordan introduces a group of characters as wild and woolly, as unpredictable, outrageous and violence-prone as the land that spawns them.” —Chicago Tribune

“This is not merely a stellar book. It is absolute ballad put to page, a stunning composition about the awakening of young Sugar Mecklin to a mystical world of fantasy, illusion, and harsh reality . . . Like a hypnotic Bessie Smith ballad, Nordan’s book bids you listen.” —Southern Living

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Nordan's engaging, wise, delightfully wry stories sound a melodious, bittersweet yawp, pulsating with love, grief, rage and a thirst for redemption. These 10 interrelated tales focus on Sugar Mecklin, a boy growing up in a Mississippi Delta town, and his pained, adoring love for his hopeless, hard-drinking father, Gilbert. Sugar, the narrator in all but one of the stories, tells of his parents' ``strange destructive love for each other''; of their comical second honeymoon in a deserted coastal town where they attempt sexual fantasy games; and of his mother's forbearance for her husband, who attracts bad luck like a magnet. Nordan's ( The All-Girl Football Team ) Delta, a hothouse environment where personal interaction is stifled and hopes dashed, is peopled with memorable eccentrics and ``white trash'' on whom he confers a forlorn dignity. Occurring while Sugar is on leave from the army, Gilbert's bizarre death under a blanket of fish in a tornado-battered house is a rueful finale to a magical collection, an exorcism of childhood. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Nordan's 11 connected stories chronicle uncertain adolescence and the sweet poison of hopeless love. In 1950s Mississippi, life is grim, hilarious, grotesque. Sugar Mecklin wants ``a different history and geography.'' Life with his hard-drinking father and dreamily optimistic mother drives him to explore, even hop trains. Sugar encounters a junky druggist, a juke-joint musician, and an aspiring white-trash diva. And corpses, for ``The Delta is filled up with death.'' Mortality twines kudzu-like through magic, music, tornadoes, singing mice, and swamp mermaids. Sugar learns no matter what our circumstances we wander alone in a confusing landscape. Nordan's characters are hopeless, endearing misfits who conclude, ``There is great pain in all love, but we don't care, it's worth it.'' Recommended.-- Lenore Hart, Machipongo, Va.
School Library Journal
YA-- The events here center around Sugar Mecklin, an adolescent living in Mississippi in the 1950s. His world is filled with misfits: his alcoholic father; an overweight soprano who sings among cabbages; an eccentric grandfather who pretends to be blind; and many others. Sugar's love for his father is the unifying element in ten interrelated yet separate stories. Nordan's writing is powerful. The heat of the summers, the failure of Sugar to escape his world, the quiet desperation of some of Mississippi's inhabitants, and the pervasiveness of death are so strongly delineated that although humor runs throughout, a sense of hopelessness prevails. This is hard-hitting stuff, not for everyone, but those who do read Nordan's book will come away richer for the experience. It deserves a place on any library shelf.-- Pamela B. Rearden, Centreville Library, Fairfax County, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565120167
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 1/9/1992
  • Series: Front Porch Paperback Series
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 381,853
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.19 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Lewis Nordan was a professor of creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh for many years and the author of seven books of fiction and a memoir. His awards include three American Library Association Notable Book citations, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for fiction, the Mississippi Authors Award for fiction, and the Southern Book Critics Award for fiction. He died in 2012.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted July 11, 2014

    Music to my ears! Music of the Swamp, Lewis Nordan I loved the

    Music to my ears!

    Music of the Swamp, Lewis Nordan

    I loved the voices in this book. They reminded me of my youth, before the television changed all our accents to mush. The people felt real, some sad, some disassociated, but all doing the best they can with what little they have. Hearing the stories from young Sugar was like sitting with my friends at that age. Each with our own point of view experiences and inexperience in the big wide world around us. I enjoyed this family but I wouldn’t want to live there. And anyone skipping the essay at the end is missing out on the full story. Well written, interesting people, strange circumstances, quick read, a jolly good story!

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