Wolf Whistle
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Wolf Whistle

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  520 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, novelist Lewis Nordan was fifteen years old the summer two white men from the next town were tried for the murder of a black boy who wolf-whistled at a white woman. The boy's name was Emmett Till and the year his murderers were tried (and acquitted) was 1955. In the thirty-eight years since, that white adolescent's impressions of w...more
Published January 10th 1993 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
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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
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...more
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.
Jeff Laughlin
Fantastic and chilling book about some black guy died or something.

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...more
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

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."
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.
Good: the description and characterization were excellent. Everyone had their own believable backstory.
Bad: the plot didn't really go anywhere. It was more of a slice-of-life picture than a story.

Certainly worth reading, but I'm not sure I'll actively search out other books by Nordan. I'll be curious to see what the next person thinks of it.
Andrea Conarro
(I am trying not to inflate all of my ratings...) This was a good book, another quick southern tome that captures sense of place well. (Isn't that what so much of southern writing is about--sense of place?) I had the opportunity to have Nordan critique a short story of mine years ago. Didn't realize till later what a privilege it was!
Margaret Breidenbaugh
I must admit I read this book when I was in middle school, a long time ago, and I don't think I truly understood it. I remember being quite intrigued by the writing style, and I remember my heart beating quickly wondering what would become of Emmett. I need to read this again, this time as an adult.
I love this book and I love Buddy's writing. It is based on the murder of Emmett Till in 1955. It's a fast read but still manages to stay lyrical and horendous and magical and grotesque and funny and heartbreaking, sometimes all at the same time. The way good Southern novels ought to be.
Katy Vance
I read this book in my contemporary fiction class in college and LOVED it. It's an extremely powerful telling of the murder of Emmett Till. I think it's a testament to the ways in which fictionalized accounts of true events can often be more powerful and influential than non-fiction.
Interesting writing style, was refreshing to see. My only gripe about this book is that sometimes he gets a little too excited about describing the scene and can go on for pages, and then does only a sentence to summarize the action, whereas I prefer the opposite.
Literary, fictional account of the world in which Emmett Till was murdered for whistling at a white woman in rural Mississippi in 1955. Lewis Nordan shows how the lives of all those surrounding the most notorious racial killing of the times are changed forever.
My son made the recommendation, "I had to read it for Fiction Writing class, but (sic) it's really good."
I'd say it's a fabulous choice for the class and a great book. I hope to read more Nordan. His slightly surreal and magical South is fascinating.
First time I got a book recommendation from an obituary. Lewis Nordan died last week.

Based on the death of Emmett Till, more about the village in which it happened, not really about the trial. Not what I expected, but very good.
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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...more
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
“The day Glenn Gregg's daddy got back from New Orleans was the same day Lady Sally Anne Montberclair decided to park her big white Cadillac out in front of Red's Goodlookin Bar and Gro. and leave the motor running and scoot inside, out of the first drops of rain, on an errand. Glenn's daddy was named Solon.” 1 likes
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