Boy with Loaded Gun: A Memoir

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( 188 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9781565121997: Boy with Loaded Gun: A Memoir

Lewis Nordan is famous for his special vision of the Mississippi Delta. His characters, for whom the closest-though hopelessly inadequate-description might be "eccentrics," share the stage with swamp elves and midgets living in the backyard. His fiction is unlike anybody else's and is as dark, hilarious, and affecting as any ever written.

It's also writing that lays bare the agony of adolescence and plows, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer once put it, "the fields of puzzling wonder that precede the responsibilities and disappointments of adulthood."

What bred and fed Nordan's imagination, his originality, his indefatigable sense of humor? The answers aren't obvious. But now that Lewis Nordan produces, directs, and stars in his own story, we just might find out.

Nordan's mother was widowed when he was a baby, and she went back to her home town to remarry and raise her only son "Buddy." Itta Bena, Mississippi, was a prototypical fifties Delta town, so drowsy that even before puberty, Nordan had made his escape plans. What happened next was pretty typical-a stint in the Navy, college in Mississippi, very early marriage, young fatherhood, alcoholism, infidelities, broken hearts. But in Nordan's hands, the typical turns into the transcendent and, at the heart of things, there is always the irrepressible laughter.

Horrible things and horribly funny things happen in Boy with Loaded Gun, but it's that heart that leads us through Lewis Nordan's dark tunnel and back into the light.

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Review:

In only the first of many profoundly self-destructive acts in his memoir Boy with Loaded Gun, Lewis "Buddy" Nordan dons a Superman cape, shrieks in excitement at the arrival of his family's new TV, and leaps off his porch as if to fly. A few seconds later, his forehead strikes the concrete, Buddy is laid out cold, and a number of all-too-enduring patterns have taken root, including a lifelong fascination with power and fathers and flight. To Nordan's credit, he doesn't knock you over the head with the metaphorical implications of this or any of the other escapades that follow. Instead, he lets one improbably cinematic vignette build on another: the time he met his alcoholic father's midget ex-girlfriend; the time he ran away to New York and was rescued from his own drunkenness by a suspiciously short elevator operator; the time he mail-ordered a gun. ("Eventually I tried to kill my father, of course.") With a life like this, how is it that Nordan has never written a memoir before? The curious recurrence of midgets alone would have been too much temptation for many a lesser talent.

One of the book's most acute pleasures is Nordan's account of his childhood in the wonderfully named Itta Bena, Mississippi. (The Chickasaw words--reputed by local legend to mean "Home in the Woods"--actually mean "to build a house of crossed logs.") Growing up in Itta Bena, of course, is all about getting out of Itta Bena, but once Nordan does, things go downhill fast. In the typically sordid progression of alcohol and infidelity that follows, we miss, as readers, Itta Bena's certainties: they are comfortable, especially to rebel against, and Nordan's account of them is like a well-crafted coming-of-age novel. In contrast, the myriad ambiguities of grown-up life seem less grand, even less true, than fiction. Still, who else has ever attained understanding by confronting his "inner midget"? The general outlines of Nordan's ascent from hell may be familiar--the church basements, what he calls his "Don't Drink meetings"--but the particulars never are (cf. the chapter titled "The Amazing Technicolor Effing Machine"). Nordan is an original, a storyteller of great and unusual gifts, and in Boy with Loaded Gun, readers reap the fruits of both his present happiness and his past unhappiness. --Mary Park

From the Back Cover:

Nothing is sacred, off-limits, for Lewis Nordan...*

"As a prose stylist, Nordan is capable of a range of effects from the broadest slapstick comedy to the subtlest evocations of the lush, dangerous beauty of delta and swamp." --The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"What he alone brings to the page is the courage to use nothing less than black powder prose itself to blast some sense into us no matter where we've come to ground." --The Miami Herald

"In Nordan's skillful hands facts become slippery, magical, humorous, and black." --The Houston Post

"Flights of fancy keep bumping into the hard facts of life." --Newsweek

"He conjures up a Southern-fried childhood that's as dark, hilarious and affecting as any you're likely to encounter." --The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

"A master of 'the landscapes of the broken heart.'" --St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"...The reason nothing is sacred to him is because everything appears holy with him." --*Nashville Banner

"If you call yourself a serious reader but still haven't discovered Lewis Nordan, shame on you." --The Seattle Times

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