Music of the Swamp Reissued

Lewis Nordan
1939 - 2012

Our friends at Algonquin did the book world a favor last year by returning to print Lewis Nordan’s classic novel based on the murder of Emmett Till, Wolf Whistle (paperback, 13.95), which Randall Kenan once compared to Zora Neale Hurston, Calderon, Shakespeare, and Eudora Welty. Now they have done one better, reissuing Nordan’s breakout classic, the novel-in-stories Music of the Swamp (paperback, 14.95). In its first few pages you are introduced to singing mice, a bare-breasted mermaid (perhaps), the voice of Elvis Presley that boyhood-hero Sugar Mecklin is hearing for the first time on the family’s Philco radio, and finding that, “Today was a Sunday, this was a whole summer, in fact, in which magic might prove once and for all to be true.”  

Lewis Nordan lived in Pennsylvania, where he taught at the University of Pittsburgh, but he was born and raised in Itta Bena, Mississippi. Buddy, as he was known, visited here a number of times, each one memorable but none more than his first visit to Square Books with Music of the Swamp. This new edition includes an essay by the author, “The Invention of Sugar: An Essay about Life in Fiction – or Vice Versa.” Whenever I am asked for the best books by Mississippi writers, the remarkable Music of the Swamp is among the first few I clutch.  R.H.