Wolf Whistle

Wolf Whistle

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by Lewis Nordan
     
 

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ALA Notable Book; 1994 Mississippi Writers Award for Fiction; 1994 Southern Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. In WOLF WHISTLE, Lewis Nordan unleashes the hellhounds of his prodigious imagination on one of the most notorious racial killings of the century, the Emmett Till murder. Soon we're on a magical mystery tour of the Southern psyche of the mid-1950s and the… See more details below

Overview

ALA Notable Book; 1994 Mississippi Writers Award for Fiction; 1994 Southern Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. In WOLF WHISTLE, Lewis Nordan unleashes the hellhounds of his prodigious imagination on one of the most notorious racial killings of the century, the Emmett Till murder. Soon we're on a magical mystery tour of the Southern psyche of the mid-1950s and the dawning of guilt and recognition in a whole generation of white Southerners. "An immense and wall-shattering display of talent. WOLF WHISTLE will help usher Lewis Nordan into the Hall of Fame of American Letters."--Randall Kenan, The Nation.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy lynched for whistling at a white woman, is at the center of this ALA notable book that also won the Southern Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. (Apr.)
Library Journal
The wolf whistle of the title comes from Bobo, a black teenager from Chicago visiting in Arrow Catcher, Mississippi. Directed at the wife of the town's most prominent white resident, this whistle soon leads to Bobo's murder. Based on the Emmett Till lynching, which occurred near Nordan's hometown in 1955, this flamboyant novel by the author of Welcome to the Arrow-Catcher Fair ( LJ 9/15/83) examines the intertwined fates of blacks and poor whites in the Mississippi delta. Like a blues song by Robert Johnson, to whom Nordan frequently alludes, the text depicts loneliness, alcoholism, unrequited love, and brutal violence but elevates it all to a higher (and sometimes highly comic) aesthetic plane. Nordan displays some of Faulkner's lyricism and Flannery O'Connor's surreal humor but emerges as a unique and powerful Southern storyteller in his own right.-- Albert E. Wilhelm, Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville
Kirkus Reviews
Following Bebe Moore Campbell's Your Blues Ain't Like Mine (1992), here's another (and far superior) first novel based on the 1955 Mississippi lynching of the teenager Emmett Till. Nordan, a white Mississippian, has set Till's murder in the freaky fictional world he's created in three story collections (Music of the Swamp, 1991, etc.). Most of Nordan's cast live in Balance Due, "the white-trash ghetto" in the town of Arrow Catcher. Foremost among them is Alice Conroy, the young, idealistic, disappointed-in-love fourth-grade teacher who will emerge as the conscience of the white community. Alice is keeping house for Uncle Runt, the town drunk and gravedigger, whose wife has just left him. Close by is robber and wife-beater Solon Gregg: Solon's son tried to set his daddy on fire but burnt himself to a crisp instead. All of these people are shockingly alone, watched over by buzzards ancient enough to have feasted on the Confederate dead. Into this world of lost souls, forever surprised by their thoughts and actions, comes Bobo (Till's actual nickname), down south from Chicago to spend the summer with Uncle and Auntee. For whistling at a white woman, "a normal and decent testing of adolescent limits in a hopeful world," Bobo is murdered by the wretched Solon, an onlooker and hired gun for the woman's husband, a Delta grandee. Alice has had a vision of a dead child in the river but, recognizing "the futility of magic," gone back to sleep. More tragically, Uncle and Auntee recognize even their stouthearted love cannot protect Bobo from the white man's mischief, though Uncle will courageously identify Solon at the trial, which is disrupted by Uncle Runt's African parrot (more futilemagic). By showing Till's murder through the scrim of magic realism, Nordan, without blinking at the horror, has allowed his benighted characters a glimpse of transcendence. The result is a high-wire act—of surprising tenderness—that can only enhance Nordan's reputation.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565129139
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
10/05/2003
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
312
Sales rank:
262,091
File size:
5 MB

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