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Ishmael Reed

Author of Mumbo Jumbo

65+ Works 3,399 Members 39 Reviews 14 Favorited

About the Author

Poet and novelist Ismael Reed was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on February 22, 1938 and grew up in Buffalo, New York. After attending the State University of New York at Buffalo, he moved to New York City, where he became a co-founder of the East Village Other, a journal of experimental writing. show more From New York, he moved to Berkeley, California, and started the Yardbird Publishing Company. Reed's fiction draws upon myth, magic, and ritual to produce a literature that attempts to be larger than life. He has been called an ironist, whose explorations of United States history in general and African American history in particular reveal deep scars in the culture that no amount of technology can heal. Reed tries to incorporate multimedia and nonlinear techniques into his writing style. He has defended his eclectic techniques with spirit, however: "Many people call my fiction muddled, crazy, incoherent because I've attempted in fiction the techniques and forms painters, dancers, film makers, musicians in the West have taken for granted for at least 50 years, and the artists of many other cultures, for thousands of years." His other published books include: six collections of poetry, including: New and Collected Poems, 1964-2007; eight collections of essays, most recently Barack Obama and the Jim Crow Media: The Return of the Nigger Breakers (2010); Gethsemane Park; The Reed Reader (2000); Blues City: A Walk in Oakland (2003); and six plays, collected by Dalkey Archive Press as Ishmael Reed, The Plays (2009). (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: photo:michaelsimon

Works by Ishmael Reed

Mumbo Jumbo (1972) 1,029 copies
Flight to Canada (1976) 338 copies
Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down (1969) 251 copies
The Freelance Pallbearers (1968) 174 copies
Japanese by Spring (1993) 130 copies
The Terrible Twos (1982) 123 copies
Reckless Eyeballing (1986) 104 copies
Airing Dirty Laundry (1993) 71 copies
The Terrible Threes (1989) 61 copies
The Reed Reader (2000) 56 copies
Malcolm and Me (2020) — Author — 43 copies
Juice! (2011) 31 copies
Chattanooga; poems (1973) 19 copies
The Complete Muhammad Ali (2015) 18 copies
New and Collected Poems (1988) 17 copies
19 Necromancers From Now: An Anthology of Original American Writings for the 1970s (1970) — Editor, introduction; Author — 11 copies
Ishmael Reed: The Plays (2009) 11 copies
Conjugating Hindi (2018) 10 copies
Contemplación temeraria (1991) 4 copies
Quilt 1 (1981) 3 copies
Life Among the Aryans (2022) 2 copies
Quilt 3 (1982) 2 copies
Y'bird (1978) 2 copies
Black Hollywood Unchained (2015) 2 copies
Ishmael Reed (1993) 2 copies

Associated Works

Up from Slavery (1901) — Introduction, some editions — 4,258 copies
Soul on Ice (1968) — Preface, some editions — 1,697 copies
Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica (1938) — Introduction, some editions — 746 copies
The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry (1999) — Contributor — 594 copies
The Black Poets (1983) — Contributor — 356 copies
The Portable Sixties Reader (2002) — Contributor — 327 copies
African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song (2020) — Contributor — 174 copies
Fourteen Days: A Collaborative Novel (2022) — Contributor — 165 copies
This Is My Best: Great Writers Share Their Favorite Work (2004) — Contributor — 160 copies
The Vintage Book of African American Poetry (2000) — Contributor — 144 copies
Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America (1995) — Contributor — 91 copies
The State of the Language [1980] (1980) — Contributor — 82 copies
The Cool School: Writing from America's Hip Underground (2013) — Contributor — 80 copies
Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor (2006) — Contributor — 66 copies
The Best American Poetry 2019 (2019) — Contributor — 57 copies
Trouble the Water: 250 Years of African American Poetry (1997) — Contributor — 56 copies
Of Poetry and Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin (2016) — Contributor — 55 copies
Soulscript: Afro-American Poetry (1970) — Contributor — 40 copies
Black and Conservative (1966) — Introduction, some editions — 25 copies
For Neruda, For Chile: An International Anthology (1975) — Contributor — 23 copies
A Portrait of Southern Writers: Photographs (2000) — Contributor — 13 copies
Cutting Edges: Young American Fiction for the 70's (1973) — Contributor — 8 copies
Race Traitor 10 (1999) — Contributor — 4 copies
Resisting Arrest: Poems to Stretch the Sky (2016) — Contributor — 3 copies
New World Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2/3 — Contributor — 1 copy


Common Knowledge



"The Novel [...] organized systematically and formally to short-circuit an older type of social and historical interpretation which it perpetually holds out and withdraws. [...] A realism that seeks History by way of our own pop images and simulacra of that history, which itself remains forever out of reach." — Fredric Jameson

There was a moment in the late 20th century in which the pre-eminent progressive author (Reed, Doctorow, perhaps also Coover, though I’m loath / to file him in that pigeonhole) was writing bad-on-purpose novels composed entirely of plot — all fat, in the sense that the adverb is excess fat in a sentence, I maintain 'plot' functions like this in the novel — the reading of which is providing a surplus value of pleasure derived from an extra-textual (i.e. romantic political) association in easy sympathy with a heaping of Catch-22 exclamation-mark humor. The difference between this kind of writing and my sympathy with that mantra (from Shelia Heti): "I should put a lot of shit in the play," perhaps comes down to (a different) "Argument From Degree."… (more)
Joe.Olipo | 12 other reviews | Jan 1, 2024 |
An ad promises Benjamin "Chappie" Puttbutt III that he will learn the language of Japanese by spring. He had started taking lessons to learn Japanese in the Air Force Academy in the mid 1960s. Only the lessons ended after he had been expelled from the Academy. In the beginning the reader has no idea why Puttbutt has been expelled, but hang on! That story is coming and it's a doozy. In present day, Puttbutt teaches English at the Jack London College. His only ambition in life is to make tenure, but he is a miserable failure. [As an aside, I can tell you that tenure is not all that it is cracked up to be.] But anyway, Puttbutt is so desperate for this recognition that he jumps on the latest support bandwagon that will further his cause, even if it means derogatory talk about his own race and culture.
Reed's tongue in cheek commentary on institutional endowments was pretty funny. A student can get away with murder because his father practically funds the entire college. Where have we seen that before? Be prepared for other snarky commentary on political hotbed topics like the LA riots and the beating of Rodney King, nationalism, racism, any ism you can think of. Speaking of racism, here is a snarky scene to ponder: a professor is exclaiming that racism has never existed on the Jack London College campus while a fraternity is having its annual "Slave Day." I was tempted to play a drinking game with the words nationalism and Yoruba.
… (more)
SeriousGrace | 1 other review | Dec 25, 2023 |
For me, the most accessible of all of Reed's novels. I love his poetry.
Mark_Feltskog | 1 other review | Dec 23, 2023 |
Read this for class. It was interesting and kind of frustrating. I never understood satire in books and this was no exception. I just didn't get it. However, I did end up enjoying the story somewhat. However, it did have something I really liked. The title of the book is also a book in the book. The main character uses a book called Japanese by Spring to learn Japanese. This is just something I enjoy in books, it makes a nice little circle.
HeartofGold900 | 1 other review | Dec 3, 2022 |



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