The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … Ishmael Reed The Last Days of Louisiana Red (1974)


‘”The crows have left,” Ishmael Reed said, explaining the chorus of songbirds. It was a clear spring day in Oakland, California, and I had just sat down with Reed, his wife, Carla Blank, and their daughter Tennessee in the family’s back yard. The eighty-three-year-old writer looked every inch “Uncle Ish,” as he’s known on AOL: sunglasses, New Balances, a Nike windbreaker, and an athletic skullcap covering his halo of dandelion-seed white hair. He described his war against the neighborhood crows with mischievous satisfaction, as though it were one of his many skirmishes with the New York literary establishment.

‘“They had a sentinel on the telephone wire,” he said, and were chasing away the other birds. But Reed learned to signal with a crow whistle—three caws for a predator, four for a friend, he inferred—well enough to manipulate the murder. Before long, he said, “they thought I was a crow.” Now the songbirds were back. The four of us paused to take in their music, a free-verse anthology of avian lyric. When Blank mentioned that a hummingbird frequented the garden, I wondered aloud why the Aztecs had chosen the bird as an emblem of their war god. Reed answered instantly: “They go right for the eyes.”

‘Ishmael Reed has outwitted more than crows with his formidable powers of imitation. For half a century, he’s been American literature’s most fearless satirist, waging a cultural forever war against the media that spans a dozen novels, nine plays and essay collections, and hundreds of poems, one of which, written in anticipation of his thirty-fifth birthday, is a prayer to stay petty: “35? I ain’t been mean enough . . . Make me Tennessee mean . . . Miles Davis mean . . . Pawnbroker mean,” he writes. “Mean as the town Bessie sings about / ‘Where all the birds sing bass.’ ”

‘His brilliantly idiosyncratic fiction has travestied everyone from Moses to Lin-Manuel Miranda, and laid a foundation for the freewheeling genre experiments of writers such as Paul Beatty, Victor LaValle, and Colson Whitehead. Yet there’s always been more to Reed than subversion and caricature. Laughter, in his books, unearths legacies suppressed by prejudice, élitism, and mass-media coöptation. The protagonist of his best-known novel, “Mumbo Jumbo,” is a metaphysical detective searching for a lost anthology of Black literature whose discovery promises the West’s collapse amid “renewed enthusiasms for the Ikons of the aesthetically victimized civilizations.”

‘It’s a future that Reed has worked tirelessly to realize. Mastermind of a decades-long insurgency of magazines, anthologies, small presses, and nonprofit foundations, he’s led the fight for an American literature that is truly “multicultural”—a term that he did much to popularize, before it, too, was coöpted. Through it all, Reed has asserted the vitality of America’s marginalized cultures, especially those of working-class African Americans. “We do have a heritage,” he once thundered. “You may think it’s scummy and low-down and funky and homespun, but it’s there. I think it’s beautiful. I’d invite it to dinner.”

‘Many writers of Reed’s age and accomplishment would already have settled into a leisurely circuit of dinners in their honor. But he’s proudly bitten the hands that do such feeding. Several years ago, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a longtime booster of Reed’s fiction, proposed writing the introduction for a Library of America edition of his novels. Reed, who considers Gates the unelected “king” of Black arts and scholarship, mocked the offer by demanding a hundred-thousand-dollar fee for the privilege.

‘“The fool can say things about the king that other people can’t,” Reed told me. “That’s the role I’ve inherited.”’ — Julian Lucas



Ishmael Reed @ Wikipedia
Konch Magazine
Mumbo Jumbo: a dazzling classic finally gets the recognition it deserves
Ishmael Reed Gets the Last Laugh
Ishmael Reed, The Art of Poetry No. 100
Ishmael Reed@ goodreads
Curating the New York School – Ishmael Reed
‘On Tokens and Tokenism’
The Ishmael Reed Papers
Writing Without Permission: A Conversation with Ishmael Reed
Super Bowl Insurrection: A Conversation with Ishmael Reed
The Critical Reception of Ishmael Reed
John A. Williams: Ishmael Reed, The Man Who Defied the Formula
Neo-HooDoo, in Words and Music
Ishmael Reed’s Undying Faith in Diversity and Multiculturalism
Ishmael Reed and the postmodern slave narrative
Postmodernism, Ethnicity and Underground Revisionism In Ishmael Reed
Ishmael Reed on the Language of Huck Finn
Exit West: An Interview with Ishmael Reed
Audio: Ismael Reed on Bookworm
Ishmael Reed Tries to Undo the Damage ‘Hamilton’ Has Wrought


Hands of Grace

‘Ishmael Reed has been renowned as a novelist, poet, and playwright for more than half a century, yet his progress in the music world came more slowly. Introduced to jazz music in the front room of a bootlegger’s house at age four, Reed has been immersed in the genre his whole life. He would later tell Max Roach that bebop kept him and his friends out of reform school because they were too busy listening to records to get into trouble. Reed first recorded in the early 1980s, performing vocals and recitations alongside Conjure, a supergroup of jazz musicians—including Allen Toussaint, Olu Dara, Taj Mahal, and David Murray, among others—that Kip Hanrahan, of American Clavé Records, had assembled to arrange music for Reed’s poetry. “But I wanted to apply my ‘sensibility’ to more than songwriting,” Reed later said. “I found that lyrics ranked second to music, and though I had written the songs and poetry, the famous performers had a higher status than the writers.” And so, at the age of 60, he began to study jazz piano seriously. In 2007, a cancer diagnosis motivated him to assemble an ad hoc group and record a collection of jazz standards, For All We Know. Fifteen years later, he finally steps out as a composer on The Hands of Grace, a sweetly earnest and stirringly beautiful collection of jazz tunes for piano and ensemble.’ — Matthew Blackwell



Ishmael Reed at the Brockport Writers Forum

Ishmael Reed in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist

A Lecture on Ishmael Reed’s “Neo-HooDoo Manifesto”

To Become A Writer, Ishmael Reed




REGINALD MARTIN: Camus wrote in “Neither Victims nor Executioners” that the only really committed artist is he who, without refusing to take part in the combat, at least refuses to join the regular armies and remains a freelance. In many respects, I see you that way, but many of your critics, Houston Baker, Jr., and Addison Gayle, Jr., for example, seem to throw out any possibility that issues they support may also be issues that you equally support.
ISHMAEL REED: I saw Houston Baker, Jr., recently in Los Angeles. I don’t bear any ill feelings toward him. In fact, he was very cordial toward me. I feel that the piece published in “Black American Literature Forum” that was edited by Joel Weixlmann was irresponsible, and my point is that they would never attack white writers the way they do black writers in that magazine, and I still maintain that. All these scurrilous charges that Baraka made against black writers—and I’ve discussed this with Baraka—those charges were outrageous—he called them traitors, capitulationists.

RM: Did you see Baraka’s recent piece on PBS in which was outlined his recent battles with police, where they accused him of beating his wife in his car, when they were just having a domestic argument, disagreement—
IR: That kind of thing happens to black people every day in this country, and they don’t receive that kind of sentence he did, which was to go to prison on the weekends; I think he lectured there—an outside lecturer.

RM: What did Norman Mailer receive for stabbing his wife with a pen knife?
IR: Well, they all like that, they all love that kind of stuff in New York. This Son-of-Sam syndrome, where, I guess, this comes from an interest in Russian psychology, Russian literature, this Raskolnikov notion, that there are some people superior to other people, that Dostoyevsky trip, you know, and that these people are above the kind of rules that apply to you and me. And I think that people who indulge in bizarre behavior are existential heroes, like Jack Abbott, Gilmore, I think even Baraka had that kind of role in cultural hero. As a matter of fact, there was someone in France recently, and the Mitterand government intervened to get him out of jail, a poet, or so he called himself a poet, and he went out and robbed a bank again or something. I don’t know, there’s this fascination with this kind of character. And I feel that that is just a kind of an Eastern, Manhattan, intellectual obsession.

RM: Addison Gayle, Jr., speaks critically about your perception of the relations between black men and women when he reviews “Flight to Canada” in relation to “Eva’s Man” by Gayl Jones. He writes: “Reed, of course, is an anomaly, and if much of his fiction, “Louisiana Red” and “Flight to Canada”, proves anything, it is that black women have no monopoly on demons, real or imaginative. These two novels demonstrate that, like the ‘buyer’ in “Caracas,” like blacks in general, male and female, the web of folklore which has circumscribed much of our relations with each other from the days of slavery to the present time, have been impervious to the best efforts of conscientious men and women to tear it down. Thus, Reed’s central argument, as developed in both “Louisiana Red” and “Flight to Canada,” may be summed up thusly: since the days of slavery, collusion between black women and white men has existed in America. The major objective of this collusion has been the castrating of black males and the thwarting of manful rebellion.”
IR: Well, I think that anybody who reads that ought to go and read his autobiography, “The Wayward Child,” and pick up on some of his notions on black women and white women. As I said in a letter to “Nation” magazine recently, women in general make out better in my books than black men do in the works of black women and white women, feminist writers. And I gave the example of Gayl Jones’s “Eva’s Man”—not to mention “Corregidora”—in which black men are portrayed as brutes, apes, but also Toni Morrison’s “Sula,” in which the character Jude is burned alive by his mother, something I had heard of in black culture. And Alice Walker’s fascination with incest—which can always get you over, if you have the hint of incest. I mean, it got Ellison over; there are a lot of male critics who are interested in that, who are interested in black male sexual behavior—they’re fascinated. There was recently a review on Louis Harlan’s book on Booker T. Washington, by Malcolm Boyd—he used to be a hippie preacher or something; I don’t know what he’s doing now. And he spent a whole lot of the book—he spent the whole article on this story about Booker T. Washington being caned for knocking on a white woman’s door or something like that. Of all the things Booker T. Washington had done! This man was just fascinated with this. He spent three or four paragraphs talking just about that! So there’s an obvious fascination with incest and rape, and Alice Walker picks up on things like this. I tried to get my letter published in “Nation” magazine. I finally had to go to the American Civil Liberties Union here in northern California to get my reply published to what I considered to be a hatchet job done by Stanley Crouch. He had all the facts about my career and publishing activities wrong. They see Al Young and myself as leaders of some multicultural revolt threatening the things they’re doing—against their interests. But in “Nation” I wrote that the same charges that Alice Walker makes against black men were made about the Jews in Germany. I guess we don’t have a large organization like the Anti-Defamation League or a large pressure group or lobby—

RM: Then it goes without saying that these people—not just the black critics but all critics—invent things that they say make up the black aesthetic, in fact that becomes a limiting label.
IR: They haven’t investigated Afro-American folklore, nor have they investigated voodoo. I call it Neo-HooDooism. So there’s a reference that goes back to shed light on the aesthetic I’m working out, which I consider to be the true Afro-American aesthetic. When I say Afro-American aesthetic, I’m not just talking about us, you know, I’m talking about the Americas. People in the Latin countries read my books because they share the same international aesthetic that I’m into and have been into for a long time. And it’s multicultural. The West’s Afro-American aesthetic is multicultural—it’s not black. That’s what they don’t understand. This black aesthetic thing is a northern, urban, academic movement—that’s why you have a fancy word like “aesthetic”, which nobody figures out. When you come to talk about standards of taste, everyone differs. It’s a vague enough word so that they can get away with it. And even though they try to make it sound like it’s really important—that’s the black intellectual pastime—discussing all these phantoms and things. You look at all these conferences for a hundred years, same questions.

RM: That was a great Chester Himes quotation that you included in “Shrovetide,” to the effect that he had searched all his life to find one place in the world where he did not have to be a nigger, only to find that there is no such place. And that he could have just developed his writing wherever he was and marketed it to those who were interested.
IR: Well, I think that the black male is a pariah all over the world—well, maybe not all over the world, but it seems in my experience that in South America, the United States, places like that, the black male is a pariah. That also gives you an advantage. Because there’s a certain desperation, a certain creativeness, originality, that comes from being at the bottom. A lot of our great art comes from the Afro-American male experience. Just think of all the great male jazz musicians. They’re innovators, these guys are hungry, Louis Armstrong and those guys were really hungry, they’re originals; and look at all the black males in politics now; all the feminists are criticizing black males now, black feminists and white feminists, but they got all their strategies from black men. The black males are the ones whose strategies are used all over the world—Martin Luther King in Ireland, Russia, these Pentecostalists in Russia singing “We Shall Overcome.” So black men are geniuses, and many times their desperation, their position as being pariahs, leads them to great originality. I heard a black female pianist who is a real man-hater, I think, but all the pieces she was playing were by Bud Powell and Monk. So that’s very important. But I don’t think you hear much about the black aesthetic anymore. Blacks are probably more American than any other group here. I know that a lot of blacks have Native American ancestry—I know I do, and it’s something to be paid more attention to. You see, this black aesthetic thing was not scientific, as I guess a lot of things which came from the English department are not. Social sciences are not—but this black aesthetic was a classic example in imprecision. Because Africans do not consider Afro-Americans in this country to be really black, because their ancestry is so mixed up—you know, Indian, European, African—so actually one could say that by singling out one part of your ancestry and labeling that might be considered racist. So that’s why I was always intrigued that these professors who are supposed to be scientists would try to peddle that.

RM: You said earlier that the writing going on now cannot really be called a black aesthetic; it’s much more diffuse—
IR: I don’t know about aesthetic. I think people are going to write anyway. Aesthetic is like the Holy Ghost or something. People are just going to write.

RM: The subtext of “Mumbo Jumbo” seems to be saying that “there are many aesthetics in the world, lots of ways of doing things, and mine is just as good as yours—maybe better.”
IR: The thing about the Afro-American aesthetic is that they can prove that it is an aesthetic. The thing that became the settler phase of America is just a phase. The European phase in the Americas is coming to an end, and that’s why there’s all this paranoia and retrenchment mentality, and the so-called “back to basics” movement, which means we should emphasize American and European history. The president of Tufts—amazing for someone who runs a sophisticated, modern university—a woman, right?—trivialized African studies, saying it was like “basket weaving” or something, and how we ought to stick with “our” civilization. This is a big misunderstanding that the fundamentalists have in this country, cultural fundamentalists: that America is an extension of European civilization. A lot of people who should know better say things like this, like Chicano intellectuals I’ve talked to speak of “Latin” America, and there’s just as much African influence on South America as any other. The thing about the voodoo aesthetic is that it’s multicultural and it can absorb, while the settler thing is monotheistic and nonabsorptive. In other words, if you’re not on my side, I can do anything I want to do with you. Those are the forces that come together in “Mumbo Jumbo.”

RM: Would you trace voodoo from West Africa to the Caribbean, to New Orleans and up the river, or would you say it starts in the Caribbean?
IR: I think Haiti is internationally recognized as the origin of voodoo. I’ve decided that gospel music is just a front for voodoo. Mahalia Jackson had a difficult time getting her brand of gospel over to the orthodox ministers. And I think when they’re praising Jesus, they’re really singing about Legba or someone like that . . . Damballah. The rhythms are voodoo. The genius of voodoo is its camouflage. I’ll give you a very amusing example. In the 1960s, everyone was into these amulets, and in the 1960s I had a black ebony cross made up for me—not the Greek cross—and I was in Washington, D.C. staying at the hotel Intrigue—”Intrigue,” strange—but this Christian delegation was getting on the elevator and they said, “Are you with us brother?” And that shows the genius of it right there. It has elements that appeal to everyone.

RM: Some Afro-Americans who are interested in literature are turned off by your perceived liberal stances. What do you think about that?
IR: I think Afro-Americans as a group are probably very conservative. I think they are very suspicious of what has been called the avant-garde. Now, what I’m doing is not avant-garde, but a classical Afro-American form. And it’s been beaten out of them. They’re supposed to hate that, shun it, fear it. So I think that’s one of the problems. They used to say the same thing about Miles Davis thirty years ago. They thought bebop was crazy. They said that about all the jazz greats. So they don’t say you’re crazy anymore, but black men don’t have any credibility in this country. We steal, we mug, all the stereotypes.

RM: In “Flight to Canada,” you continually attack the term “universal.” Would you define the term “universal” as it applies to a criticism of literature?
IR: Well, it’s not a criticism of literature. Lorenzo Thomas tracked the term “universal” to Tolstoy’s essay on art, in which he says that universal art is the art of the people. The other art is landlord art: ballet. They got it all wrong, and they use the term to dismiss works which they consider too local or too ethnic, critics from the East. Someone was telling me that a great book would never be written in Yiddish, and then about six months later, Isaac Singer won the Nobel Prize for literature. I think if Faulkner had been a black writer, he would have been considered ethnic. I would say 60 percent of Faulkner’s work is written in black English. People just seem to be blinded to reality when it comes to dismissing languages. I don’t think there is any standard English. I think there is such a thing as protocol English.



Ishmael Reed The Last Days of Louisiana Red
Columbia University Press

‘When Papa LaBas (private eye, noonday HooDoo, and hero of Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo) comes to Berkeley, California, to investigate the mysterious death of Ed Yellings, owner of the Solid Gumbo Works, he finds himself fighting the rising tide of violence propagated by Louisiana Red and those militant opportunists, the Moochers.

‘A HooDoo detective story and a comprehensive satire on the explosive politics of the ’60s, The Last Days of Louisiana Red exposes the hypocrisy of contemporary American culture and race politics.’ — UoCP




p.s. Hey. ** rigby, Happy not so new year to you too, rigby! My birthday was very warm gray compared to your current circumstances, but I was good with it. Thank you a lot for your great part in the tribute to Joe. Yes, dryness galore to you, pal. ** Misanthrope, Thanks, man. It was a nice b’day. I’m good with it. Happy reading and, I imagine, working. ** Minet, Hi. I love ‘comrade’. Oh, gosh, I’ll have to go back and look more closely even to pick faves, but I was honestly blown away across the board. The art world, or parts of it, actually pays pretty close attention to artists showing their stuff on Instagram. They just have to know where to look. I’ll slip in recommendations to my connections when I can. I was actually pleasantly surprised by what you managed to make AI do. Your wiliness is impressive. No, I never met Guibert. My Paris time didn’t coincide with his being alive, or I guess a couple of visits did, but I don’t think I knew his work then or else just never imagined he would be interested to meet. I don’t now if Dustan and Guibert knew each other, but I can only imagine they would have really hated each other if they did. Bon Wednesday. ** CAUTIVOS, Thank you, sir. Uh, my books are published by a bunch of presses in different countries. In the US, Soho Press did ‘I Wished’. The others were from Grove Press, Harper Perennial, and a couple of others. In France it’s Editions POL. In the US, it has changed a fair amount, although Grove Press published all of my earlier books. In France it’s been POL from the beginning. I suspect your book isn’t in English? If it is, I’d love to read it. Sales don’t say anything about a book’s value, that’s for sure. ** Dominik, Hi!!! Thank you, thank you! Yes, I’m going to LA on Sunday, staying until Feb. 9th, although that return date might change. I’d be over the moon if either Robin Zander or Robert Pollard sang happy birthday to me. Maybe love could arrange a duet? Thank you! Love not letting me waste all my time playing games on the Nintendo Switch I got for my birthday yesterday, although it wouldn’t be wasted, G. ** T. J., Thank you so much! ** Jack Skelley, Ha ha, if only, dude, if only. Love in gargantuan form back to you, J. ** David Ehrenstein, I fall into the strung out camp, I guess. ** scunnard, Thank you very much, Jared. ** Montse, Hi, Montse! I ate nachos, which were kind of like a busted, non-sweet cake. Thank you for the vibes. We need them. No way, Boy Harsher is reading ‘The Sluts’? That’s amazing! Wow! That’s crazy! Thank you for telling me that. Wow! I’m pretty sure we’ll be heavily involved in editing the film when Primavera happens, but, oh, that would be so nice. You going? Anyone particularly exciting playing this year? Yes, come to Paris! I’ll try to let you know when we’ll be back. End of April is an early guess. Caesar wrote to you in the comments if you didn’t see it. Lots of love to you and the mighty Xet! ** Sypha, Thank you, James! ** Tosh Berman, I just read what you wrote about Jun Togawa the other day, which is what brought her back to mind and back into my playlist. Thanks, T. ** Steve Erickson, Thanks a lot, Steve. Togawa is wonderful. See what you think. ** _Black_Acrylic, I’m happy you found him/it of interest. I still haven’t seen ‘Vortex’, weird. I really need to. ** Jamie, Hi, J. I’m so happy you brought some Frampton into your day. I think he’s a total genius. My b’day was pretty normal until I had a nice dinner with pals. Philosophical is the way to go. That’s what got me through mine at least. Cool about the Akerman, and its reception. She’s actually a viral thing right now. It’s crazy. Happy you’re writing, obvs. We’re in a rough patch with the film, but I think when we get to LA, we can get past it and into the good stuff. I hope. I saw a mosquito in my kitchen the other day, shockingly. If they start surviving winter, we’re all fucked. I hope your Wednesday lacks buzz of that brand. Immediately thinking of Wim Wenders’s ‘Million Dollar Hotel’ which is definitely, definitely not good love, Dennis ** Daniel, Aw, thanks, Daniel. Superb day to you, maestro. ** Philip Hopbell, Hi! Thank you for the reassurance. It’s a little daunting to turn this age to say the least. You met Frampton? Wow, I’m super impressed. He’s a serious god to me. Thank you so much for coming in here and saying that, Philip. Obviously, feel very free to come back anytime. ** Robert, I hope you like his stuff. Needless to say ‘Bernhard-y’ is an immensely intriguing descriptor. Heavy encouragement from me. I have three siblings: two brothers and one sister. I’m the oldest. You? ** Derek McCormack, Thank you, thank you, oh great friend and hero!!!!! ** Alex Beaumais, Hi! Thank you very much, Alex. I’m proud to have had your book on my blog. In fact, I have a copy of it right here within eyesight on my immediately to read pile. Take care. ** Dom Lyne, Thanks, Dom. Warmest hugs right back at you. ** Charalampos Tzanakis, Thank you very much, CT. No, I didn’t listen to my favorite songs. I should have. Cool, I listen to ‘Talby’ all the time. Pinback are so, so, so underrated. ** Billy, Many, many thanks to you, Billy. I hope your day had an inordinately fun aspect. ** Caesar, Thank you, C! Yeah, ‘IaGC’ is intense, no? I’m glad you got to see it. No, I actually lived near Cortazar’s apartment. Well, if it helps, being in the ‘profession’ of experimental fiction writer is definitely not a money maker either. Yes, my collaborator Zac and I are shooting our new film in March. Luckily, I’m not a fan of resting. Otherwise I would be a bit insane at the moment. Right, you’re in summer. I’m happy to share some of our cold and rain if I can figure out how to do that. ** James, Thank you, James. No, no cake, just nachos. After that I was too full. Love, me. ** l@rst, Thanks, big l. And excellent about the clever library. ** politekid, Hi, Oscar! Thank you very kindly, my pal. And thank you for the link/gift. You know me so well, ha ha. I’m glad you survived the mega-shift. Kind of a nice term. ** alex, Thank you very, very much, Alex. ** h now j, Thank you! It was alright, all in all. Yesterday, I mean. Hugs! ** Billy, Ha ha, awesome that I flummoxed Chat GPT. Gold star for me. Someone for sure will make a transgressive version, don’t you think? ** rafe, That thing you made is great! Thank you a lot for letting me peep at it. I hope today rules on your end. ** Damien Ark, You’re way not too late, and thank you, Damien! ** Brian, Hi, Brian! Thank you, pal. Let me know how you and yours are doing when letting me know feels like an interesting to do. ** ellie, Hey! Wow, that’s completely gorgeous! Thank you, wow! You don’t mind if I click and drag it into my private computer screen realm? It’s beautiful! Love, me. ** Paul Curran, Thanks, Paul! Definitely on the Japan trip. Man oh man. The second that time allows! Elephantine love, me. ** Nick., Hi, Nick! The day itself was kind of average, but then some friends and I ate nachos, and I got a few gifts including a Nintendo Switch which I’ve been dying for and procrastinating about buying for, like, four years. So, not bad. Your satellite day of my b’day sounds enviable. I decided to live a daring life when I was about 12, but I don’t think I went on a big adventure until I was 15 when this boy I was, whatever, ‘dating’ and I decided to take LSD 24 hours a day for a month, which led to me having a massive mental breakdown, and I really don’t recommend it, but it was .. an adventure. Nothing to lose is a good motto, or, well, not always — see my LSD story — but yeah. I think my favorite ever concert was seeing Gang of Four right after their first album ‘Entertainment!’ came out. I went kind of nuts, in the good way. What’s yours? Great to talk with you as always. ** ShadeoutMapes:v, It wasn’t bad, thanks! I’m going to look up George Pell, because I’m blanking, but congratulations! Publishing books is cool, but not publishing them can be just as cool. And as someone who quit college after one year, I can assure you that an awesome life is fully possible without that. What you write about ‘broken’ makes absolute sense. I used that term way too lazily. Sometimes the p.s. makes me write faster than I think. Mm, as someone who was for a long time, and may still be, pretty ignored, looked down upon, etc., it’s amazing what can happen when you end up finding the right people here and there to repopulate your world. I was a really messed up person when I was young, and I never would have ever imagined what’s happened to me happening. I still sort of can’t believe it. So, don’t give up on believing that life can totally surprise you, I guess. I haven’t ever investigated Sinead O’Connor apart from the obvious stuff of hers that you hear casually. I’ll make it a point to dig further into her stuff. Your rant, which wasn’t even a rant, hit nothing but high marks. ** malcolm, Hi, malcolm! How’s it? Frampton is a huge favorite and hero of mine. I hope his work infiltrates you. No, my b’day was nice. It was good. I was just being a dreading grump. How are you? What are you working on? ** Okay. I was in the mood to read Ishmael Reed the other day because his early novels are so rambunctious and fantastic. I’ve already done posts on his best, in my opinion, novels ‘The Free-lance Pallbearer’ and ‘Mumbo Jumbo’, so I decided to spotlight my third favorite of his novels, which right up there. See what you think. See you tomorrow.



    Hi Dennis. I have read some of Ishmael Reed but little. Only Reckless Contemplation that I don’t know if it will be the original translation. On the back cover does not put the translation. I have to say that I bought it because he is a writer that is very appreciated by you. There are some other books of his in Spanish that are in second-hand bookstores. I read it but it didn’t impress me much, I wasn’t very impressed either as Joan Dion’s game comes, I have some other work of his that has impressed me more, I couldn’t tell you. No one seems to bother much about reissuing Reed’s works around here. I could tell you that I’m reading now, but you wouldn’t believe me. I hope you don’t have too much of a hangover from your birthday the day before yesterday. A hug.

  2. _Black_Acrylic

    Ishmael Reed is someone who has long been at the peripheries of my vision and I am glad of today’s reminder.

    The good news here is that the recently cancelled Flash Fiction course in Dundee is now very much back on, and starts Thursday next week. I’ve bought my ticket and look forward to beginning a new creative chapter.

  3. Dorna

    Dennis, Happy birthday a day late. With love, from Albuquerque.

  4. Dominik


    Ishmael Reed’s name popped up not too long ago when my father asked me whether I’d read anything by him. He’d read about “Mumbo Jumbo” and got interested. I’m yet to explore his work.

    Do you still have an apartment in L.A.?

    I think love can arrange a duet, no problem. And it’d sound fantastic too. I really like Robin Zander’s voice. Not that it’d matter to love since the duet would be addressed solely to you.

    Oh! You got a long-longed-for Nintendo Switch! Love making time stop whenever you play games on it so that you’re not wasting a minute – not that it’d be a waste, right, Od.

  5. Billy

    I mean, I kind of hope not? I want the perverts and fringe people to be the cockroaches who survive the internet becoming synthetic corporate shit? Might not be how capitalism works, I fear. I could connivance dall.e to inadvertently make lewd pictures by asking it to make ‘man eats four sausages at once’ but chatgpt is too smart for things like ‘packing meat’.
    Hope the film’s going well.
    With love,

  6. David Ehrenstein

    A geeat black American writer

  7. malcolm

    so glad to know your birthday was good

    i’ve been hard at work on the film. we finally have shoot dates! feb 25 – 27. still need to cast one small role. on draft 6 of the script, just about ready to lock it. getting ready to launch a kickstarter campaign to raise a few thousand dollars to pay the cast and crew with. i even have a premiere date! everything is falling into place, dreams are coming true

    the lead role is being played by ashley macisaac, a fiddle player from my hometown who had quite a bit of success in the 90s, and still today. he flashed his dick on the conan show in 1997. it’s on youtube. he’s kind of a legend. he’s very excited to be involved and i’m so happy to have him. check out his songs “sleepy maggie” featuring the wonderful mary jane lamond on vocals and “the john morrison”

    read somewhere in a post recently that you’re back in LA soon for your own film – what’s on the agenda? very excited to see the project completed and to read all the updates along the way

    sending love as always

  8. Minet

    I need to get into Reed more, only read his poetry which I like. Have you read Baraka’s The System of Dante’s Hell? One of my favorite books of all time.
    Oh, that’s good to know about the art world. That’d be so great about the recommendations, thanks a lot, comrade, you truly are the coolest 🙂
    I knew you were gonna get some cool gifts! I’m not that big on Nintendo these days personally (though used to be obsessed with Gamecube/DS/Wii as a kid, not as much as my beloved PS2 but still), but always leech on my friends’ Switch when I can to play some Animal Crossing and Mario. What games are you planning to buy? I know you’re a huge Zelda fan, right? What’s your favorite? (Mine’s Majora, and Twilight Princess for sentimental/nostalgic reasons.)
    Agreed on Guibert vs. Dustan. We should get them on the the next Smash Bros to battle it out. Haha

  9. Loser

    Hey, Dennis. Thank you for your kind words the other day. Your posts always inspire me to read more, watch more, listen more.
    Also watched-er-more like skimmed through “Boys” (1996), and thought of how much more elevated that movie would’ve been if Lukas Haas and Wiley Wiggins just kissed or made out in that movie, haha.

  10. ellie

    Omg of course! I’m so happy you liked it Dennis, this is making my whole week 🥰 But totally yeah, it’s your present so please do whatever you’d like with it!

    • ellie

      also yay for ishmael reed! i’ve been trying on a bit of an amiri baraka kick lately and this post made me really want to track down copies of louisiana red and conjugating hindi too. thanks a ton!

  11. Bill

    Belated happy birthday, Dennis. Good to see Hollis Frampton and Ishmael Reed, I do need to spend more time with their work. I have many hours of COVID-era flying to look forward to, but soon…


  12. Robert

    I’m also the oldest, I have two younger brothers. Just curious, I’m in the middle of a biography of Faulkner and was surprised but also kind of not surprised to hear that he was an eldest sibling–I was thinking about how so many of the famous writers from the second half of the 20th century were only children, in the context of an absurd worry spiral as to whether not being an only or youngest child means that I’m not ruthlessly self-interested enough to write a good book, which feels wildly ridiculous and pretentious typed out haha.

    “RM: What did Norman Mailer receive for stabbing his wife with a pen knife?
    IR: Well, they all like that, they all love that kind of stuff in New York. This Son-of-Sam syndrome, where, I guess, this comes from an interest in Russian psychology, Russian literature, this Raskolnikov notion, that there are some people superior to other people, that Dostoyevsky trip, you know, and that these people are above the kind of rules that apply to you and me. And I think that people who indulge in bizarre behavior are existential heroes, like Jack Abbott, Gilmore, I think even Baraka had that kind of role in cultural hero. As a matter of fact, there was someone in France recently, and the Mitterand government intervened to get him out of jail, a poet, or so he called himself a poet, and he went out and robbed a bank again or something. I don’t know, there’s this fascination with this kind of character. And I feel that that is just a kind of an Eastern, Manhattan, intellectual obsession.”

    Oddly enough that’s pretty much exactly what I was thinking/worrying about on two fronts, in the ego-weakness way and as to whether being around people who are also interested in reading/writing would even be enjoyable if they all think like that. I had a professor in college from that crowd who sort of gave me the creeps in that way, but I guess at the end of the day you hope that it’s possible to write a book without being a person who does cruel things, or at least that it’s possible to make yourself miserable enough to have anxieties you need to write out without also making yourself miserable for other people to be around. Anyway I can tell how ridiculous that whole train of thought is the instant it’s leaving my fingertips, disregard all.

    “This is a big misunderstanding that the fundamentalists have in this country, cultural fundamentalists: that America is an extension of European civilization. A lot of people who should know better say things like this, like Chicano intellectuals I’ve talked to speak of “Latin” America, and there’s just as much African influence on South America as any other. The thing about the voodoo aesthetic is that it’s multicultural and it can absorb, while the settler thing is monotheistic and nonabsorptive. In other words, if you’re not on my side, I can do anything I want to do with you. Those are the forces that come together in “Mumbo Jumbo.””

    Super interesting thought… I’m in the middle of Moby Dick right now (or would be if not for insomnia killing my concentration) and that thought fits nicely there, and for the rest of the gothic American fiction line. Gotta bump Reed and Mumbo Jumbo up to the top of my list, I’ve been putting him off way too long.

  13. Nick.

    Hi! Nachos with friends sounds nice and Im glad you had fun! And love that what color is it and what are you most excited to play first? I haven’t been reading much lately so I’m a little light on ideas but I have been having a lot of fun and really enjoying myself so fair trade I’d say. Hope your day was great! Wow I can’t believe you decided when you were kid to live such a life really proves you’re as cool as you seem! Favorite concert um I have fun at most of them
    But I saw Tennis awhile ago and they really are one of my favorites plus they happen to be couple who’s really in love and just seem to really enjoy being kind of odd together so I’d definitely say them. And wow I guess what was tripping like that like before it got bad and what was the moment it did get bad? If you even remember and what was the boy doing was he just there? Okay here’s my normal well wishes hope you’re well and here’s a new question! What’s a joke that makes you laugh everytime
    You hear it?

  14. Caesar

    Dear Dennis. I hope you finished your birthday well and that you are well. Indeed, “IaGC” is intense, strangely erotic and demented. The fact that the general has to live hooked up to that big iron lung…. Cronenberg sure likes this movie.
    I appreciate the consolation but I hope you do better than you paint it jsjsjsjsjs.
    What’s your new movie about, can you tell me, what’s it called? Or is it TOP SECRET at the moment?
    Yes, the summer is awful here. It’s too hot. I’m sweating my brains out hahahaha but at least today the temperature dropped surprisingly which is a relief (you’re not a witch like Kenneth Anger, are you? Hahaha).
    By the way, awesome entry today!(?)(here it’s 4am I don’t know what time it will be there and if it’s still today, whatever). I didn’t know Ishmael Reed! He mention Toni Morrison (one of my favorite writers) so I’ll get to reading right away! Luckily there are several books in translation! I’m always on the lookout for Afro (and Asian, for that matter) literature. It’s a debt I owe because of my childhood self that only wanted to read poetry and horror stories.
    Greetings and kisses! (Here, in Argentina, always give kisses when we say hello and goodbye).
    Pd: I promise to improve my English soon so I’m sorry if I don’t understand something if I write badly u.u

    • Montse

      Por si no ves, mi comentario en el post de ayer, te lo pego aquí:

      Caesar!! Encantada! Qué guay encontrar a alguien aquí de Argentina. ¿Dónde vives? Yo soy de Barcelona. Mi pareja, Xet, es de Bahía Blanca y, en broma, digo que soy medio argentina, jaja. Me encanta el país, la gente, los escritores, la comida… ¡Y Mariana! Sí, ojalá Dennis la lea. Me alegro de que te gustara mi blog. Gracias! 🙂 Miles de ojos me flipó! Fue todo un descubrimiento. El rollo del black metal, los coches, la secta… Increíble. Te dejo mis cuentas y hablamos por allí, si quieres. Twitter: @menesesmontse Instagram: @moneezowee

      • Caesar

        Recién veo esto buscando tu respuesta!!!! Disculpa la tardanza!!!! Ya te sigo reina así charlamos !!!!

  15. Montse

    Dennis!! Glad to know that you had nachos, another favorite of yours. I can’t believe I didn’t think of taking a screenshot of the BH Sluts pic. Shit. But yes, apparently Jae was reading it. I see, not the best time for you to come to Primavera if you wil be editing the film. Next year then. Yes, we go every year. It’s my favorite time of the year. Kind of like your Halloween. There’s Kendrick Lamar, Sparks, Julia Holter, Yves Tumor, Swans, Death Grips, Blur and many many more this year. Thanks for telling me about Caesar! I’ll reply to him now! Cool about Paris. We’ll keep talking and find the best time for me to visit. I still haven’t read any Ishmael Reed. Need to fix it. More good vibes for the work ahead! Lots and lots of love,

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