BOY WITH LOADED GUN by Lewis Nordan

BOY WITH LOADED GUN

A Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A bittersweet memoir of growing up absurd in rural Mississippi, then suffering the slings and arrows of marriage and fatherhood, from the popular author of such vivid fiction as Music of the Swamp (1991) and Lightning Song (1997). Deftly mingling entertaining anecdotes with probing self-analysis, Nordan creates a commendably frank revelation of the ways in which a marked tendency toward impulsive behavior has enhanced and troubled his life. The early chapters are rich in colloquial humor, portraying only-child “Buddy” Nordan’s upbringing in the nowhere Delta town of Itta Bena, where the appearance of the first local TV set causes a sensation, and the existence of racism first becomes real for Buddy once he hears stories about the notorious Emmett Till murder case (later the subject of Nordan’s fine novel Wolf Whistle, 1993). There are further ominous foreshadowings in the irreversibly depressed figure of Buddy’s mild-mannered alcoholic stepfather, and in scattershot intimations of the preadolescent Lewis’s seemingly interconnected obsession with sex, frequent irrational anger, and fascination with violence (hence his title). Generic accounts of young-adult high jinks (like locking himself out of a hotel room while drunk and naked) occupy the book’s meandering midsection, but are succeeded by increasingly candid descriptions of recovering from a nearly fatal automobile accident (in which the other driver was killed, as Nordan learned when the man’s widow unaccountably visited him in the hospital), a promising first marriage that ended in divorce, “the enormity of . . . [his eldest] son’s suicide” (provoked, Nordan realized, by his own alcoholism, infidelity, and parental failure), and his successful remarriage, literary career, and peacemaking with both his own demons and the erosions of aging. Some painful truth telling, and an eye-opening explanation of how one writer’s complicated psyche came to be, in a worthy piece of personal history that’s also a helpful gloss on Nordan’s distinctive novels and stories. (First serial to Harper’s and Oxford American)

Pub Date: Jan. 14th, 2000
ISBN: 1-56512-199-6
Page count: 290pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2000




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