Like everyone who knew Lewis “Buddy” Nordan, I was so sad to hear of his passing on Friday April 13th. Buddy was one of the truly great southern writers, and his novels and short stories were intensely original. He has a sense of humor that crossed over into his writing. But his best known book, Wolf Whistle, deals with the murder of Emmett Till. I think it’s one of the best American novels ever written. Born and raised in Mississippi, his work was characterized by what you might call “Mississippi magical realism.” No one in the world wrote like Buddy Nordan. He didn’t get a book published until he was 45, which is inspirational to say the least. He got his PhD from Auburn, where his focus was Shakespeare.
When I think of Buddy I remember his stories, his endless collection of blues T-shirts, his charm and his wit. He dressed in jeans like a teenager, and he talked about music and film more than he talked about books. The first time I met him we were on the same program doing a reading for a fund raiser. I had a migraine aura and was having a hard time seeing the poems I planned to read. “Stick with sex and death darlin’,” he said with his a sweet southern accent, “you’ll do just fine.” I loved him the minute I met him. The last time I saw him was at The Virginia Center for the Arts. The last night of the residency, a bunch of us stayed up all night to watch movies like kids at a slumber party. I can’t remember what movies we watched; I just remember how much fun we all had together. I always thought I’d see him one more time, but I count my lucky stars for all the wonderful memories I have of this completely irreplaceable man.