cover image Music of the Swamp

Music of the Swamp

Lewis Nordan. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $15.95 (210pp) ISBN 978-0-945575-76-4

Nordan's engaging, wise, delightfully wry stories sound a melodious, bittersweet yawp, pulsating with love, grief, rage and a thirst for redemption. These 10 interrelated tales focus on Sugar Mecklin, a boy growing up in a Mississippi Delta town, and his pained, adoring love for his hopeless, hard-drinking father, Gilbert. Sugar, the narrator in all but one of the stories, tells of his parents' ``strange destructive love for each other''; of their comical second honeymoon in a deserted coastal town where they attempt sexual fantasy games; and of his mother's forbearance for her husband, who attracts bad luck like a magnet. Nordan's ( The All-Girl Football Team ) Delta, a hothouse environment where personal interaction is stifled and hopes dashed, is peopled with memorable eccentrics and ``white trash'' on whom he confers a forlorn dignity. Occurring while Sugar is on leave from the army, Gilbert's bizarre death under a blanket of fish in a tornado-battered house is a rueful finale to a magical collection, an exorcism of childhood. (Sept.)