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Book Title: Music of the Swamp|
The author of the book: Lewis Nordan
Date of issue: December 3rd 2005
ISBN 13: 9780945575764
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 8.15 MB
Edition: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Read full description of the books Music of the Swamp: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.
Read information about the authorFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Lewis Nordan (August 23, 1939 – April 13, 2012) was an American writer.
Nordan was born to Lemuel and Sara Bayles in Forest, Mississippi, grew up in Itta Bena, Mississippi. He received his B.A. at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, his M.A. from Mississippi State University, and his Ph.D. from Auburn University in Alabama. In 1983, at age forty-five, Nordan published his first collection of stories, Welcome to the Arrow-Catcher Fair. The collection established him as a writer in the grotesque Southern tradition of William Faulkner, Erskine Caldwell, and Flannery O'Connor. It also established a place for Nordan’s fiction, the fictional Arrow Catcher, Mississippi, a small town in the Mississippi Delta based loosely on Nordan’s hometown of Itta Bena.
After the short-story collection The All-Girl Football Team (1986) followed Music of the Swamp (1991), a novel/short-story cycle featuring Nordan's spiritual alter ego, the young Sugar Mecklin, as the protagonist. The book features aspects of magic realism that would become one of Nordan's trademarks, along with a peculiar mix of the tragic and the hilarious.
Wolf Whistle (1993), Nordan's second novel, was both a critical and public success. It won the Southern Book Award and gained him a wider audience. The book deals with one of the most notorious racial incidents in recent Southern history: the murder of Emmett Till.
The novel The Sharpshooter Blues (1995) is a lyrical meditation on America's gun culture, as well as another portrait of the grotesque lives in Itta Bena. With the coming-of-age novel Lightning Song (1997), Nordan moved from Itta Bena to the hill country of Mississippi. The novel still features Nordan's magic Mississippi realism, complete with singing llamas and poetic lightning strikes.
In 2000, Nordan published a "fictional memoir," Boy With Loaded Gun.
Before retiring in 2005, Lewis Nordan lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he taught Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh.
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