Harlem, années 1920. PaPa LaBas, détective et sorcier « néo-houdouiste », est engagé dans une lutte contre l'Ordre de la Fleur de muraille. Les membres de ce mouvement suprémaciste veulent éradiquer un mal mystérieux nommé Djeuze Grou - une sorte de virus qui se propagerait par la danse et la musique noires, menaçant selon eux de renverser l'Amérique blanche. Pour contrer leurs sinistres desseins, PaPa LaBas se met en quête du mythique Livre sacré de Djeuze Grou, dont on dit qu'il serait détenu par le séculaire ordre des Templiers.
Entre parodie de polar et de quête initiatique, allégorie politique, grand carnaval entremêlant les références historiques, mythologiques, littéraires, folkloriques et musicales, Mumbo Jumbo dresse le portrait prophétique d'une Amérique livrée aux démons du racisme et du conspirationnisme. Un roman culte qui a inspiré toute une génération d'artistes, de Thomas Pynchon à Colson Whitehead en passant par George Clinton.
More than a biography and `bigger than boxing', The Complete Muhammad Ali is a fascinating portrait of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first. Ishmael Reed calls it The Complete Muhammad Ali because most of the hundred odd books about the Champion are "either too adoring or make excessively negative assertions." They also omit many voices that deserve to be heard.
Ishmael Reed charts Muhammad Ali's evolution from Black Nationalism to universalism, but gives due credit to the Nation's of Islam's and Black Nationalism's important influence on Ali's intellectual development. People who led these organizations are given a chance to speak up. Sam X, who introduced Ali to the Nation of Islam, said that without his mentor Elijah Muhammad, nobody would ever have heard of Ali. That remark cannot be ignored.
Reed, an accomplished poet, novelist, essayist and playwright, casts his inquisitive eye on a man who came to represent the aspirations of so many people worldwide and so many causes. He also brings to bear his own experience as an African American public figure, born in the South in the same period, as well as an encyclopaedic grasp of American history.
People interviewed include Marvin X, Harry Belafonte, Hugh Masakela, Jack Newfield, Ed Hughes, Emmanuel Steward, Amiri Baraka, Agieb Bilal, Emil Guillermo, Khalilah Ali, Quincy Troupe, Rahaman Ali, Melvin Van Peebles, Ray Robinson, Jr., Ed Hughes, Jesse Jackson, Martin Wyatt, Bennett Johnson, Stanley Crouch, Bobby Seale, and many more.
Reed also places the Muhammad Ali phenomenon in the history of boxing and boxers from before the times of Jack Johnson, through Joe Louis and Archie Moore to Floyd Mayweather. He also includes Canadian fights and fighters like Tommy Burns, George Chuvalo and Yvon Durelle.
"The Heavyweight Championship of the World," wrote Reed in a 1976 Village Voice headline article shortly after third Ali-Norton fight, "is a sex show, a fashion show, scene of intrigue between different religions, politics, classes; a gathering of stars, ex-stars, their hangers-on, and hangers-on assistants."
The author of the much cited Writin' is Fightin' has now produced what will likely be known not only as The Complete Muhammad Ali but also "the definitive Muhammad Ali."
Ishmael Reed goes too far, again! Just as the fugitive slaves went to Canada and challenged the prevailing view that slaves were well off under their masters, Ishmael Reed has gone all the way to Quebec-where this book is published-to challenge the widespread opinion that racism is no longer a factor in American life.
In some ways, says Reed, the United States very much resembles the country of the 1850s. The representations of blacks in popular culture are throwbacks to the days of minstrelsy. Politicians are raising stereotypes about blacks reminiscent of those that the fugitive slaves found it necessary to combat: that they are lazy and dependent and need people to manage them.
Ishmael Reed establishes his diagnosis of a nervous breakdown in three parts. Part I on a black president of the United States is entitled "Chief Executive and Chief Exorcist, Too?" Part II on culture and representations of African Americans in our supposed post-race era, "Coonery and Buffoonery." In Part III, "As Relayed by Themselves," cultural figures have a chance to tell the story in their own words.
For Ishmael Reed, Barack Obama, like Michelangelo's St. Anthony, is a tormented man, haunted by modern reincarnations of the demonic spirits used to break slaves. These were the "Nigger Breakers"-men like Edward Covey, who was handed the job of breaking Frederick Douglass. "Isn't it ironic," writes Reed: "A media that scolded the Jim Crow South in the 1960s now finds itself hosting the bird." In this collection, which includes several unpublished essays, Ishmael Reed brings to bear his grasp of the four-centuries-long African-American experience as he turns his penetrating gaze on Barack Obama's election and first year in power-establishing himself as the conscience of a country that was once moved by Martin Luther King's dream.
The Civil War divides the United States. Millions, including the president, wish to maintain monuments to generals like Robert E. Lee. Referred to as "Knights" in Gone with the Wind," some generals earned their bona fides by murdering blacks, Mexicans, and Native Americans During the Battle of Chapultepec in 1847, Robert E. Lee fought children, Los niños heroes. Refusing to surrender, they were slaughtered.
Ishmael Reed's reach is vast and varied. His take down of the billion-dollar show Hamilton and its designer Lin-Manuel Miranda is priceless, as are his searing critiques of the `Black Bogeyman' scam and the one-at-a-time tokenism of an elite who chooses winners and losers among minority artists.
Reed "says what's on his mind," be it about Quentin Tarantino and Django, white nationalism or Donald Trump. At the same time his portraits of Amiri Baraka/LeRoy Jones and actor Oliver Clark are touching and many-layered.
About Why No Confederate Statues in Mexico
"Ishmael Reed is the purest literary troublemaker we currently have' - The Buffalo News
About Ishmael Reed and his Work
That's what I loved about Baldwin, something that I am inspired by about Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Ishmael Reed, Gwendolyn Brooks-they were all darlings of the liberal establishment, and they rejected that status, which meant they were pushed to the margins." Cornell West
"Even nearer to [Colson] Whitehead's derailment of antebellum history is Ishmael Reed's Flight to Canada (1976)." Julian Lucas, New York Review of Books
"It was a ceremonial rite of some magnitude when the great American writer, cultural theorist, and musician Ishmael Reed played a jazz composition on the piano."-Vogue, 17 Feb. 2019, coverage of Grace Wales Bonner's London fashion show.
When Ishmael Reed wrote The Terrible Twos about the American infantile need for instant gratification, he could not have realized that in June 2020, journalist Nicole Wallace would be referring to a president as a "toddler." Reed had parodied other genres, the gothic novel, the detective novel, the western and the neo-slave narrative, a term that he coined in 1984, and which began a big academic payroll as it was included in syllabi nation-wide. From his first novel, The Free-Lance Pallbearers, Afro-Futurist before the critical term existed, Ishmael Reed has reshaped traditional forms and extended them. As a Jazz pianist, who has performed in clubs and even in a palace in Italy, he compares it to taking cliché chords and re-harmonizing them.
The Terrible Fours follows The Terrible Twos (1982) and The Terrible Threes (1989). It is part science fiction, part Washington Novel (Think Drew Pearson's novel, The Senator, films "Seven Days In May" and "The Manchurian Candidate") and part Christmas Novel. Some characters have been dropped and some of the principals are back. St. Nicholas is here, but his sidekick Black Peter is missing. Dean Clift, the president who was removed from office, still resides in a Maryland sanatorium. Televangelist Clement Jones still runs the White House. "The Rapture," that Jones and the figurehead president Jesse Hatch promised, hasn't arrived.
The citizens of the planet Dido await an invasion from earth and their planet, an alien in the body of a deceased television producer, works inside the government and attempts to disrupt the invasion. Termite Control, a follower of Odin, and a necrophiliac, who was dismissed as a political threat in The Terrible Threes, is gaining in the polls, and more and more and more. Reviewing The Terrible Twos, the late John Leonard wrote in The New York Times: "Mr. Reed is as close as we are likely to get to a Garcia Marquez, elaborating his own mythology even as he trashes ours."
Ishmael Reed is a poet, novelist, essayist, playwright and songwriter. He has won prizes and grants in each category. He is also an illustrator and Jazz pianist. His most recent awards include the Alberto Dubito Award for International Poetry, presented at the Ca'Foscari University in Venice in 2016 and The AUDELCO award for theater presented in 2017. In 2019, he began his 36th year as a professor at The University of California at Berkeley. He also teaches at the California College of the Arts where he is a distinguished professor. His most recent books published by Baraka Books are Why No Confederate Statues in Mexico (2019) and The Complete Muhammad Ali (Baraka, 2015).