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Music of the Swamp

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  382 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
Nordan's fiction invents its own world, a world populated by madly heroic misfits. In MUSIC OF THE SWAMP, he focuses his magic and imagination on a single theme--a boy's utterly helpless love for his utterly hopeless father.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 9th 1992 by Algonquin Books (first published 1991)
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David Katzman
Sep 07, 2014 David Katzman rated it liked it
Music of the Swamp is a deeply sad novel. One that explores the terrain of severely dysfunctional families. The story is set in the late 50s or early 60s in a backwoods town in the South. It's essentially a swamp town inhabited by classic white trash families burdened by lack of education, little work, extreme poverty and alcohol and drug addictions. The main story follows a young boy named Sugar Mecklin who both adores and hates his barely coherent alcoholic father.

Nordan is a very strong write
Apr 04, 2013 Jamie rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-dirty-south
The music of the swamp, and the magic of the swamp, and the utterly helpless love for the utterly hopeless, and the dreams that might prove once and for all to be true. Holy hell, this was good. I’m glad I’ve got more Lewis Nordan here to dive right into.

We were like spoons together. We were like swamp-elves. And in this way we went to sleep, bare-assed children, the two of us, and in my memory not blameworthy for any sin and not even victims of the sins of our sad fathers, but, only that moment
Oct 11, 2015 Bryant rated it it was amazing
There's hardly anything I can relate to more than the wonder and wild imagination that is fostered by growing up around the swamp. There's an old magic in the mud, terrifying, thrilling and heartbreakingly beautiful-- and Lewis Nordan captures it with a pitch-perfect, plain-spoken tone, intoxicating, hilarious, and, at times, almost unbearably sad. These stories are feral little creatures, unbound by form or tradition. Here is a coming-of-age story that gives Harry Crews' A Childhood a run for i ...more
Michael Fischer
Jan 25, 2014 Michael Fischer rated it it was amazing
There are no adequate words to describe this novel's beauty:

"My mother made me a birthday cake in the shape of a rabbit--she had a cake pan molded in that shape--and she decorated it with chocolate icing and stuck on carrot slices for the eyes. It was a difficult cake to make stand up straight, but with various props it would balance on its hind legs on the plate, so that when I came into the room it looked almost real standing there, its little front feet tucked up to its chest.

At the sight o
Abeer Hoque
Feb 21, 2014 Abeer Hoque rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-recommend
I may have read the Music of the Swamp by Lewis Nordan in too close succession to Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. They are both about sensitive adolescent boys growing up in the country (one American South, one English) and the strange and wild things that happen to them.

"There are worse things than being so lonely you could die."

Neil Gaiman's protagnoist lives more in the fantastical realm, but no less real and beautiful and sensate an environs for it. Mr. Nordan's book is squa
Jun 05, 2009 Brendan rated it it was amazing
This is the book I wish I had written. Magical Realism mixed with a family drama that keeps the reader on their toes. Set in a mythical town in the South, this book is a storyteller's work on a page. There are so many passages that stand alone as moving descriptions or fantasic dialogue. You can go back to any part of this book and read it as a part and it works, but when read as a whole this dark comedy makes me wish I could be Lewis Nordon so that I could say "Yeah, I wrote that".
Jul 13, 2014 SheilaRaeO rated it really liked it
A darkly funny novel told in the manner of a memoir. A fantastical telling of a white trash life on the Delta. Nordan gives a voice to Sugar Mecklin as he grows up in Mississippi with an alcoholic step-father and a few misfit friends. It reminded me of the Bobby Gentry song "Ode to Billie Joe". Nothing was thrown of any bridges, but plenty of mystery and pre-occupied adults. As a final thought I will add that I went right to my bookstore when I finished this book and bought another by this autho ...more
May 17, 2015 Leslie rated it it was amazing
Admittedly, I groaned when I pulled this book from its bag in the Brown Bag reading group that I belong to; the idea is that you're not supposed to look until you get the book home, but we all look at our next book, while waiting for the meeting to start.

Anyway, what I gathered from the back of the book made me decide that, well, I would give it a try; I was thinking maybe the 42-page attempt, if even that. Having given up most southern fiction some years back (although I still look forward to a
Linda Campbell Franklin
Aug 19, 2010 Linda Campbell Franklin rated it it was amazing
I just read this book the second time (amazing for me to do). I found it at a thrift store about a year ago and just read it a couple of months ago, and then reread last week. It is very Southern, in the best way...weird characters acting very realistically. I am from Memphis originally, and believe I have my own "southern style" of thinking and writing, so these characters are very true in my mind. There's roosters and dead bodies and drunks and figs in syrup and Bessie Smith and much more.
Oct 16, 2015 Will rated it liked it
"There is one more thing to tell. Many days later, when my illness was coming to an end, and the bandages were removed from my infected hand, I was lying in bed between clean sheets and with my head on two fluffed-up pillows my mother had put there, my grandfather, who now could see, came into my room and sat in a chair beside my bed. He had never done such a thing before.

Then he moved from the chair and actually sat on the bed itself, right beside me. I have to tell you, I was frightened. He co
Jun 23, 2013 Zombieaps rated it it was amazing
Nordan can write an amazing sentence. This "novel" of connected stories tells the tale of a father, but more interesting is the backdrop of the Delta as authenticated by Nordan's origins in Itta Bena. I borrowed this book from a friend a bought it halfway through reading. I know that I will read these stories many more times, not just for enjoyment, but in attempt to learn lessons of the craft.
Sep 02, 2007 Beth rated it really liked it
"Douglas' only ambition when he grew up was to become an apple. Mrs. Conroy, his mother, was an angry woman. She seemed especially angry at Douglas, the child of low ambition...Once he wanted to be a cork. That night his mother cried herself to sleep while Runt sat lovingly beside her bed and wrung his hands and said, 'He could do worse, darling, he could do a lot worse.'"
Bryan D.
Jan 29, 2015 Bryan D. rated it really liked it
Music of the Swamp is appropriately named. Lewis Norden's prose rolls like the mighty Mississippi or the waves breaking on the Gulf Coast beaches. Make no mistake, these are not pretty tales, but engaging stories of a self-professed white trash family living surrounded by other white trash families. Tales of alcohol, death, torrential rains, tornadoes, hurricanes, dead fish, dead whales, dead human bodies. Tales told in such a way that you, the reader, are right there along side Sugar Mecklin as ...more
Jennifer Lauren Collins
Oct 08, 2014 Jennifer Lauren Collins rated it really liked it
Built from childhood humor and skepticism, this is one of those books which can transport readers back to a child's version of the world, as wonderful and horrible as that may be at different turns. Although it pulls together in what feels more like a series of sketches and anecdotes and understandings than a single full story, the work as a whole revolves around a boy's attempts at understanding a result, the work ends up being surprisingly cohesive, surprisingly touching.

Nordan's wor
Jul 11, 2014 Cat rated it really liked it
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
Nov 16, 2014 Wanda rated it liked it
I received a copy of Lewis Nordan's Music of the Swamp compliments of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program and appreciated the opportunity.

This is a fictional story of 10 year old Sugar Mecklin whose life in the Delta is a sad, but promising tale. Wanting to win over the love of his father, whose alcoholism and "bad luck" are a barrier to a typical father-son relationship. Sugar is aware of the poverty and dire circumstance of his surroundings, yet does not allow it to take away from his de
Quirky and colorful, with an endearing central character -- a boy whose eyes see beyond surface of the small delta town in which he lives, and dips into the magic and mystery of the imagination. Descriptions of the everyday that will knock your socks off. Stories that will have you smiling one moment, before piercing your heart with poignancy. This was the kind of book that captures the mystery of the swamp's edge and transports you there (minus the miasma and mosquitoes). It gives a glimpse of ...more
Charles Raymond
Feb 07, 2011 Charles Raymond rated it really liked it
The story is set in the 1950's, in the Delta of Mississippi. If you are looking for a strong Southern voice, the narrator will meet your request. Written in three parts, the first part is in third person limited, and the other two are in first person. You will hear the voice of Sugar Mecklin, a young boy who loves his father and is looking for his approval. This theme carries throughout the book, which spins ten connected but seperate stories of his life.

The story unfolds daily life in the back
Matt Simmons
Oct 28, 2012 Matt Simmons rated it really liked it
I have read many novels about childhood, many novels about the relationship between a child and a parent, but this one, in its small, unpretentious stature, is truly special. This is a book that very aptly and powerfully expresses three things--the wonder of childhood, that strange recognition we all have when we realize our parents are flawed, pain-filled human beings just like we are, and the scary revelation that who we are is, very often, largely a new version, a revision of our parents. In ...more
Aug 17, 2013 Daniel rated it really liked it
Lewis Nordan's writing is strongly but not typically Southern. By this I mean his prose is evocative of a particular locale, the Mississippi Delta. There are lakes with "cypress knees," local sheriffs ("Big Boy Chisholm") who wouldn't have been out of place in "Deliverance" or "Cool Hand Luke," blues music and blind old men, white trash and drunks and violence. Characters have names like Runt and Sugar and Roy Dale, Jeff(erson) Davis, Dixie Dawn, and John Wesley. But the book is a reminiscence o ...more
Jun 01, 2010 Kristensilvermoore rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Dreamers; Fans of Southern fiction; Anyone who loves stories about idiosyncratic characters
“There’s pain in all love, but we don’t care, it’s worth it.”

Music of the Swamp by Lewis Nordan is one of my favorite novels of all time, in part because I relate to the main character, a young boy named Sugar Mecklin, whose worldview is filtered through his heightened imagination. If I had to describe this book in one word, I would call it "bittersweet," which is interesting, given the protagonist's name! Sugar is filled with hope and innocence, but the reality he encounters is anything but. S
Feb 21, 2010 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully told story. Nordan uses the adult looking backward technique to construct his child narrator, which I am normally not so fond of. However, he manages to pull it off without losing the magic and beauty of the child world. A lot of writers I've seen use the technique to bring in thoughts and judgments that the child cannot supply, but end up changing the wondrous world of the child to the cold sterility of the adult. Nordan doesn't fall into that trap. Maybe it's because the ...more
Ashley Andrews
Jun 29, 2014 Ashley Andrews rated it it was amazing
Truest stories ever told. If you're from the Delta, you've met Sugar. You've either been to Sunday school with him or your Momma paid his Daddy to paint your house or you and your kind have looked down on he and his kind and the whole lot of them - but maybe not until now did you realize you are in him, and this place and time he has fossilized, it is in you.
Aug 08, 2015 Cathy added it
I set this book down after reading about a third of it. While the writing was lovely, the stories were too depressing. The reviews call the book "darkly funny." I haven't found the humor yet. I'll probably pick it up again at some point in the future, but it's too dark for me now.
Wiebke Kuhn
Jan 16, 2016 Wiebke Kuhn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun short stories loosely connected about Sugar's childhood, in particular his relationship to his father. It gets rather strange at times, but it all kind of comes together with the Epilogue. The stories are set in a Mississippi swamp community.
Tiffany Hickox
Aug 11, 2014 Tiffany Hickox rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
One paragraph in, you'll get the sense that this book is something special. One page in, you'll know this book will be hard to put down. By the end of Part One, you'll be witness to a literary miracle.

Amid all of the sadness and regret that is Sugar's life, you will be astounded by the poetry and joy found in Lewis Nordan's words. Highly recommended.
Jul 03, 2010 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This memoir of the author as a 10-12 year old boy growing up in the Delta resonates with the sights and smells of the Mississippi flatlands. You are there with him. Though I wasn't exactly able to always identify with some of what was happening with him, I certainly got a strong sense of what life was like, even if I didn't always understand it. Maybe that's exactly as he intended because he clearly didn't always understand it either, and isn't that what it's like to be a kid?

The book is short,
May 16, 2013 Melanie rated it liked it
I absolutely love Nordan's short stories. If you want to read Lewis Nordan at his best, pick up one of his collections; my favorite is The All-Girl Football Team. There are pacing problems in this novel, which I honestly expected coming from someone who so masterfully wrangles short fiction. Short stories & novels are two very different beasts, and being good at one doesn't always translate into success with the other.

At any rate, Nordan's style is timeless southern gothic; quirky, bizarre,
Oct 05, 2015 Jill rated it it was amazing
What a great story teller!
Jan 31, 2010 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of wrist cutting music
Shelves: 2010
With the main narrator named Sugar and a setting in Mississippi, you really can't go wrong if you are a fan of southern lit like myself. the book is a great, quirky slice of southern life with an appropriate dark shadow that looms above. the kid who's ambition is to be an apple, come on! the best line from the book though that i am currently obsessing over...

I had been eating my last meal forever, and it was not what I ordered.
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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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“A thousand times, when the train slowed or stopped, I thought of jumping off. I wanted to die in a ditch. I wanted to disappear. I wanted a different history and geography. In rhythm with the wheels I said I want I want I want I want I stayed on the train.” 7 likes
“For one second the woman and I seemed to become twins, or closer than twins, the same person together. Maybe we said nothing. Maybe we only lay in the band of sunlight that fell across our bed. Or maybe together we said, “There is great pain in all love, but we don’t care, it’s worth it.” 3 likes
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