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Wolf Whistle

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  609 ratings  ·  68 reviews
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 dawni ...more
Hardcover
Published January 10th 1993 by Algonquin Books
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,068)
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Jamie
Nothing about this should work, nothing, but God Almighty, so help me, it does. The white-trash telling of Emmett Till’s murder. The fantastical, twisty what-if of 1950’s Mississippi. It’s a lightning storm in the swamp. It’s electricity and madness and hilarity/horror and the boiled-down heart and soul of love and hate. It’s fiction, but it’s fact, and it’s history, and it’s history and fact and the heart of the matter in the way that takes fiction to get there. Larger than life. Magic even whe ...more
Jimmy
My third favorite of his books, which would make it among my first favorites of anyone's books. Bring on the magic and the sadness!

EDIT: On the third read of Wolf Whistle, I have to say I underestimated it the first time I read it. Even though I said it was one of my favorite books ever, i still underestimated it. It's better than anybody's favorite. It's got a strange, surreal power, something that all the best Mississippi books have. But it's not just a Mississippi book ever. It's just the god
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Grace
Wow. This is truly one of the most amazing books I have ever read in my life. The combination of magical realism, history, and (yes, eventually) some humor reminded me of City of Thieves, if it could remind me of anything. And of course the trial scene briefly brings to mind To Kill a Mockingbird, only because it is a racially-based crime in the South. But this book is absolutely one-of-a-kind.

First of all, the writing is just out of this world. The images are gorgeous and magical and very evoca
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Mary
A great book. Raw truth about the disparities between class and race in the American South. On the surface, Nordan brings out the historical racial segregation and injustice towards blacks many readers are aware of. Yet, this book also deals with the injustice towards poor whites, or the "white trash." In a small town in Mississippi, society is so suppressed and oppressed in such a segregated stated altogether, that it is hard to notice how disadvantaged many groups in the USA, including whites, ...more
Rita Reinhardt
Sometimes, I am reminded of my own unawareness. Guess what? I am not the only person in the world...no literally; sometimes I have to be reminded about the world not revolving around me. Did you know that other people actually live here, with me? Breathing the same air. Making the same assumptions. Living the same life. On Earth. With me. And they have an opinion about the horrid events that take place, and sometimes...on rare occasions...their opinions may or may not influence my empathy levels ...more
Jeri Massi
Whew! What a book! I've never read anything like this before. Loosely based on the lynching of 14 year old Emmet Till in 1955 (for whistling at a white woman), Nordan's novel is as far away from a crime novel as you can get. A grim and bizarre comedy of callous, drunk, and stupid people, the telling of this tale took me to new destinations in odd but often hilarious ways of telling a story. From the fourth grade teacher who takes her students on a field trip to a mortuary to watch an embalming, ...more
Phaedra
Ostensibly about Emmitt Till, this book rather explores the effects of race on a segregated southern town. At its heart lies the fictionalized murder of Till, but while that pivotal event is the central theme, it's not really what the book is about at all.

Initially I was distracted by the style of writing: to me, so much modern fiction is self-conscious. "Look at me, I'm a creative writer; see how creative I am?" But somehow, Nordan pulls it off, and indeed, pulled me into his half-fantasy worl
...more
Jaclyn
I made it a little past half way, and I just couldn't do it anymore. I love civil rights-era books, but this author seemed so caught up in the writing and being clever that the story became secondary. I found myself getting lost and becoming very confused about who was white and who was black. And when the book is about a southern state in the '60s, this is kind of important. Maybe it was supposed to be hard to follow? Maybe it was author commentary that, as MJ said, it don't matter if you're bl ...more
Jas
You must read this book, just as you must read Jujitsu for Christ.

I hardly knew Buddy Nordan when we shared a college, but I feel honored to have met him, as I do to know Jack Butler, another Mis-sippi writer, better. It is uncanny how Nordan manages to draw humor out of horror (and vice-versa) and pity for atrocious characters. I'm sure he does the humor for the same reason Butler has told me parts of his novel are humorous: in order to defeat these monstrous things, we have to be able to laug
...more
Cassie
This book is based off of a true event, but I didn't know that when I started reading it. (Go ahead and think I'm an idiot if you must, because I sure felt idiotic once I realized my mistake.)

The writing style and tone of the book were quite unique. It was both strange and engaging. It told the story of a horrific murder of a black boy in the south and his murders who were set free, but the tone of the book is neither gruesome nor sentimental.
Emily
Jun 17, 2010 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Isaac; other Southern gothic fans
Recommended to Emily by: Professor Sunny Stalter
"They spoke, finally, from their hearts. Maybe, finally, they did weep together, and maybe held each other tight. Nobody but Bobo knows for sure what happened next, but maybe, behind Alice and Sally Anne, the crystal ball in Swami Don's Elegant Junk shone with the bright blue light of empty interiors and of faraway and friendly stars and all their hopeful planets and golden moons."
Jonathan Hiskes
A fictional retelling of the Emmett Till murder from the perspectives of several townsfolk. Nordan's swamp-drenched prose is sensuous, making every page a pleasure to read. His careful rendering of the Mississippi Delta reminded me of Brian Doyle's Oregon Coast in Mink River. Mostly in the scent and texture and music of the place.
Pamela
I wasn't all that keen on starting this book, but since the Kindle version was only $1.99, I figured why not.

About halfway through, I really, and I mean REALLY wanted to stop reading. I knew what was going to happen, and I didn't want to read about it. But since I had already gotten this far, I hated to give up on it even more than I hated the idea of continuing. Cringing at what was coming, I forged ahead.

"It" happened--but not in the way or with the words I was expecting. The book changed. It
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Kenneth
Wanted to like it but it was hard going.

The caricature and satire is obvious and, given the positive reception this book has garnered, most people must feel it works really well. It didn't for me; it was mostly wearisome. The dashes of magical realism were no more successful.
Cheryl
If there were half points here I would give this book 4 1/2 stars. Lewis Nordan`s writing has been compared to a few different author`s but this is my review so here goes...Take one part Confederacy of Dunces, one part To Kill a Mockingbird & add a touch of Coen brothers & mash them up. You will then have Wolf Whistle which is at the same time hilarious & heartbreaking. It is a fictional account of an actual event that happened in Mississippi in the 50`s. A boy named Emmett Till was ...more
Jeff Laughlin
Fantastic and chilling book about some black guy died or something.

YEAH.
Jamie Marfurt
Set in 1950s Mississippi and loosely inspired by a true story. Very unique writing style, and interesting characters. Author tells the story from many different character viewpoints (rich white woman, white trash woman, young black man, … even buzzards?!) and uses ALL the senses when describing scenes and thoughts. It definitely intrigued me, but in the end, I'm still trying to figure out if I liked it or not. It may have been a little too "all over the place" for me….
U. Teresa
I was supposed to read this book in graduate school, but I could not bring myself to read a comic book on the death of Emmett Till. I'm glad my friend convinced me finally to read the book because it not only help me rethink/reimagine the community in which Till was killed, but it also help me understand that white people, even "white-trash" had a visceral, emotional response to Till's murder. The comic elements are just southerners being the southerners Nordan encountered; Coach and Runt's fina ...more
Holly
Wanted to like this, but.... Yuck. Every character felt like a caricature--after all, these are people whose favorite sport is catching arrows. The book was so busy being cutesy and clever that it just seemed to trivialize race-based terrorism, murder, and blatant injustice. Like Faulkner (whom I loathe) except not as pompous.
Vmacd
Amazing book. So good on so many levels. It's based on an actual racial murder in the South and is told from the perspectives of the townspeople amd wildlife. (Yes, it's magical). The language is musical and filled with jazz rhythms. Like no other book I've read. I loved this book.
Alison
This book explores the murder of Emmett Till from the perspective of the poor white in the town. As one would suspect some are the murderers while others are profoundly saddened by the death. Proof that things are seldom as clear as we would like.
Lori
perfect match of simplicity with endless depth...mesmerizing little read
Nancy Midgette
It was an interesting approach to an actual event (the murder of Emmett Till). Fans of Flannery O'Connor will recognize the approach.
Mel Beaumont
well written but a strange and disturbing book with unlikeable characters
Tricia Rogers
I finished Wolf Whistle and I am still a little puzzled. I have never read anything like this in my life. The murder in the book is actually a true event that happened in Mississippi ...... but the story and characters surrounding it are fiction based on the author's remembrance and "feeling" of growing up when the murder happpened. I get the general theme of sadnees, grief and changes needing to be made in the South ... but it just kind of ends weirdly. But I am glad I finished it.
Jenne
May 20, 2008 Jenne rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Jenne by: Cassy's list
I read about 2/3 of this book. I appreciated the writer's style and I appreciated his telling of the historical facts and his imaginings of how things went based on the record, but ultimately I found it too depressing to finish, maybe because I've been grieving over the April 18th death of my friend Lance Eakes in Iraq. Too much senseless death for me to make myself finish this book. I did do some online reading about Emmett Till, and I returned Wolf Whistle to the library.
Alex Barber
I didn't enjoy the book as I was reading it. The writing style is unique but distracting and full of seemingly random digressions. The story itself was good, but the writing was too distracting. There were things going on in this book that were deeper than what was written on the page, but I wasn't able to really grasp all of them because the writing style was so.. bizarre. Overall, I'd say I'm glad I read it, but man was it a struggle to enjoy.
Corey
Probably closer to a 3.6 than a 4, but it gets rounded up. It'd be cool if Goodreads let you give half-stars. In any event, this was an enjoyable, easy read. Nordan's prose is rich and vivid, and the omniscient voice he creates throughout novel is totally unique. Certain aspects of the magical realism in the story didn't quite work for me, but the author always made up for it, with deep, moving characters, and superb writing.
Chrissy
Interesting....a take on a real life event.

Some of the writing was great and easy to follow; I loved how the writer used real "southern" word. Made me want to read out loud. Some of the writing was great and hard to follow.

I don't think I got all of the story line. Maybe I did...I just didn't like how he choose to end the book. Some of the awkward friendships didn't make sense. Ahh but I did enjoy the book.


David
Though maybe this book doesn't call to me as much as Nordan's Sugar writings, it is still a wonderful book. Nordan creates his little Southern world in easy but meticulous strokes. Touching story, interesting characters, and all the rest you expect from Nordan. Nordan just seems to have a way of talking that is like no one else. It keeps me coming back book after book.
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From 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, Nord
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More about Lewis Nordan...
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“The Mississippi Delta is not always dark with rain. Some autumn mornings, the sun rises over Moon Lake, or Eagle, or Choctaw, or Blue, or Roebuck, all the wide, deep waters of the state, and when it does, its dawn is as rosy with promise and hope as any other.” 3 likes
“In a little while they were kissing. In a little while longer, they made their slow sweet love.

The iron bed sounded like a pine forest in an ice storm, like a switch track in a Memphis trainyard, like the sweet electrical thunder of habitual love and the tragical history of the constant heart. Auntee finished first, and then Uncle soon after, and their lips were touching lightly as they did.

The rain was still falling and the scritch owl was still asleep and the dragonflies were hidden like jewels somewhere in deep brown wet grasses, nobody knew where.

Uncle rolled away from his wife and held onto her hand, never let it go, old friend, old partner, passionate wife.”
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