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Lewis Nordan

Humor, Heartbreak, and Hope

Barbara A. Baker

Publication Year: 2012

Lewis Nordan: Humor, Heartbreak, and Hope examines and celebrates the work of southern writer Lewis “Buddy” Nordan, whose stories reveal his own pain and humanity and in their honesty force us to recognize ourselves within them.

Written by scholars and fiction writers who represent a fascinating range of experience—from a Shakespearean scholar to English professors to a former student of Nordan’s—this is a rich array of essays, poems, and visual arts in tribute to this increasingly important writer. The collection deepens the base of scholarship on Nordan, and contextualizes his work in relation to other important southern writers such as William Faulkner and Eudora Welty.

Nordan was born and raised in Mississippi before moving to Alabama to pursue his Ph.D. at Auburn University. He taught for several years at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and retired from the University of Pittsburgh, where he was a professor of English. Nordan has written four novels, three collections of short stories, and a memoir entitled Boy with Loaded Gun. His second novel, Wolf Whistle, won the Southern Book Award, and his subsequent novel, The Sharpshooter Blues, won the Notable Book Award from the American Library Association and the Fiction Award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. Nordan is renowned for his distinctive comic writing style, even while addressing more serious personal and cultural issues such as heartbreak, loss, violence, and racism. He transforms tragic characters and events into moments of artistic transcendence, illuminating what he calls the “history of all human beings.”

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-ix


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pp. xi

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pp. 1-8

Most of us never forget the first Lewis Nordan book we read or how we happened to read it. My own introduction had everything to do with Auburn since I was assigned to read Music of the Swamp during my graduate studies there...

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1. Don’t Cry for Me, Itta Bena

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pp. 9-14

I’m so glad to be back here in Auburn. I’m going to just talk for a while off the cuff about myself as a writer. I’m going to forgo any of this heavy bull that I usually talk in interviews about the reason I’m a writer is death, pure and simple...

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2. The Strangely Familiar World of Welcome to the Arrow-Catcher Fair

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pp. 15-22

It seems good and right to me that when Buddy Nordan was a boy in Itta Bena, Mississippi, he ordered a ventriloquist’s dummy from a Montgomery Ward catalog, and the dummy arrived already named, and the name happened to be...

3. Sugar amongst the Chickens

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pp. 23-24

4. Redbird

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pp. 25

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5. Lewis Nordan and One Critic: The Archer or the Arrow Catcher?

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pp. 26-31

I’m not used to talking about a writer’s work with the writer present—as a reclusive newsprint assassin, I’ll be more comfortable here if I pretend that Buddy is deaf as well as crazy. Would I have made the trip for any other writer? You can try some names...

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6. Transcendence and Hope in the Blues Life and Life Writing of Lewis Nordan

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pp. 32-41

As Roberta Maguire and I both argued in the special number of the Southern Quarterly featuring Lewis Nordan, which was edited by Edward Dupuy and published in 2003, Nordan shares an aesthetic sensibility with the blues writer and theorist...

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7. Life as a Set of Games and Invented Stories in Lewis Nordan’s Fictional Memoir

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pp. 42-63

In every work of fiction some traces of its author’s life can be discovered, just as in every autobiography there is a certain portion of fiction. According to J. William Berry, southerners, as a result of their habit of storytelling, possess an especially...

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8. Happiness Is a Warm Gun: Guns and Love in Lewis Nordan’s Work

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pp. 64-70

Love and violence intersect in Nordan’s provocative piece “An American Dream,” which was published in the September 1995 number of Harper’s and made its way into Boy with Loaded Gun five years later as, significantly, the untitled epilogue...

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9. The “Idea of Order” in Arrow Catcher, Mississippi: Scapegoating and Redemption in The Sharpshooter Blues

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pp. 71-82

A simple summary of Lewis Nordan’s The Sharpshooter Blues (1995) suggests that the novel is one depressing book. Set in Arrow Catcher, Mississippi, over several days one summer in the late 1950s, it develops a number of interlocking stories, all finally...

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10. Faulkner’s Ghost in Lewis Nordan’s The Sharpshooter Blues

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pp. 83-103

In light of Roland Barthes’s understanding of intertextuality, which makes all written discourse “a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centers of culture” (148), as well as Mikhail Bakhtin’s vision of all discourse as a “great dialogue” among...

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11. Lewis Nordan’s Southern Magic

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pp. 104-116

Lewis Nordan’s fiction is as southern as fried catfish or hush puppies, and his literary landscape is as deeply rooted in Dixieland as Faulkner’s, Welty’s, or O’Connor’s. And yet, as is also the case with these illustrious literary progenitors, Nordan’s writing overflows...

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12. Lewis (Buddy) Nordan: Poet of Prose

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pp. 117-120

As a poet, I usually find it daunting to write about fiction writers. In the case of Lewis (Buddy) Nordan, however, the lines between the two genres are beautifully and helpfully blurred. I’ve long thought that Nordan is at heart a poet who just happens...

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13. Eulogizing Space: Eudora Welty’s “Still Moments” and Gaston Bachelard’s “Dream Geometry” in Lewis Nordan’s Fiction

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pp. 121-130

Uncanny moments and talismanic spaces are rife in the fiction of Lewis Nordan, a writer whose works teachers of southern literature have enjoyed since his early collections and have had the pleasure of introducing to many students over the years...

14. Music of the Swamp

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pp. 131

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15. Wonderful Geographies

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pp. 132-138

The poet James Whitehead, in his sonnet “A Local Man Estimates What He Did for His Brother Who Became a Poet and What His Brother Did for Him,” writes about geography and destiny and about the source of narrative...

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16. The Nordan Shakespeare

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pp. 139-146

My focus is to explore the connection between Lewis Nordan’s fiction and the works of Shakespeare, to discuss what elements of Shakespeare’s drama and poetry can be observed poking up in the corners and around the edges of his novels and stories or rearing...

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17. An Interview with Lewis Nordan: Bookmark (1998)

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pp. 147-155

Don Noble: There’s a strong tradition of wry, dark, gothic humor in southern literature. The line comes down from Erskine Caldwell, Flannery O’Connor, and William Faulkner to contemporary writers such as Barry Hannah and Lewis Nordan. When a Nordan character...

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18. “The Day When the Swamp Elves Ran out of the Canebrake” : A Conversation with Lewis Nordan (2006)

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pp. 156-178

Manuel Broncano: You wrote your PhD dissertation on Shakespeare’s works, and then you didn’t follow a scholarly career afterwards because you didn’t feel attracted by academia. Do you think Shakespeare has exerted any kind of influence...

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19. Buddy on the Plains: An Interview (2009)

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pp. 179-192

Barbara Baker: I am delighted to have Lewis Nordan with me today. It’s been a pleasure spending almost a week with you now. We are coming off the heels of our symposium called “Lewis Nordan and the Heartbreaking Laughter of Transcendence...

Works Cited

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pp. 193-196


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pp. 197-198


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pp. 199-204

E-ISBN-13: 9780817385743
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817356811

Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1