Essays About Ishmael

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Burroughs' ability to transform street language, the idiom of the junk world, into powerfully stated and precise metaphors, a figurative language as dense and complex as any other in literature, remains the modern epitome of an accomplished colloquial style, an excellence Reed fails to attain in Pallbearers.

What he does achieve, however, is the elliptical flow and quick displacements of Burroughs' narrative, the cutting edge of Burroughs' cold understanding of modern reality. "—posed in Naked Lunch as the resolution to the Algebra of Need is rephrased throughout Pallbearers….

Reed is at home in the world, content to talk about Chattanooga in the vernacular and not to grab the first gilded bus to Jerusalem Celeste.

There is a lot to be said for a man who is bored by death, defeat, and martyrdom, who has the good taste to accost that prototype of righteous losers, the frequently insufferable Antigone, in no uncertain terms. 107-08) In his first novel, The Free-Lance Pallbearers (1967), Ishmael Reed emphatically declares what he will not do as a Black writer.

.) Reed speaks bluntly and uses dialect, blues rhythms, and slang, not in conformity with some theoretical program but because he can make them work.

He is at his best with the jaunty seriousness of "Loup Garoup Means Change Into" and "Railroad Bill, a Conjure Man," and at his worst, in "Kali's Galaxy," when he abandons the direct rhythms of speech and gets pinnacled dim in the intense inane. 106) It is surprising how utterly free from melancholy and the sweet languor of despair ["Chattanooga"] is.He speaks to his wife, the combustible Fannie Mae, as though he were translating a text, and her response is appropriately ribald.It is not, however, just the White man's "art-speech" in the Black man's voice that Reed burlesques.More than any other contemporary Black writer, Reed seems aware of this dilemma, the difficulty of fashioning an art form that will liberate him from the double consciousness signified by the hyphen between Afro and American.Yet this liberation is the objective of Pallbearers, the meaning of its negations, and the challenge of his later fiction."I call it the invisible train," he writes, "for which this Work has been but a modest schedule." The course of Reed's experimentation with narrative has thus increasingly involved his conception of Neo-Hoo Doo as a literary mode.My purpose in this essay is simply to take him at his word—the considerable claim that he has found a way of writing fiction unlike those decreative and self-reflexive fictive modes in which his White contemporaries seem imprisoned.Reed is careful, of course, not to establish Neo-Hoo Doo as a school.It is rather a characteristic stance, a mythological provenance, a behavior, a complex of attitudes, the retrieval of an idiom, but however broadly defined, Neo-Hoo Doo does manifest one constant and unifying refrain: Reed's fiercely professed alienation from Anglo-American literature.Yellow Back Radio constitutes Reed's attempt to reconstruct a coherent perspective and viable form from the necessary wreckage of Pallbearers.Armed with supernatural "connaissance," the magic of poetry, the Loop Garoo Kid replaces Doopeyduk, the hapless victim, at the center of Reed's fiction.


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