Ishmael Reed has emerged as one of the most innovative and controversial novelists in contemporary African American literature. By focusing on his nine published novels, this volume charts the critical response to his works over time. The book is organized by decade, with each section containing book reviews and articles. Beginning with material from the 1960s, it explores Reed's concern with artistic freedom and examines the evolution of his Neo-HooDoo aesthetic, which combines satire and parody, comedy and fantasy, African and African American religion, and myth, history, film, and other forms of popular culture. It celebrates and at times criticizes how Reed's fiction defies popular academic conceptions of what American writers, particularly black American writers, ought to be. The book also includes a substantial introduction, a transcript of a recent conversation in which Reed discusses his novels in progress, and an extensive bibliography. Since the publication of his first novel, The Free-Lance Pallbearers, in 1967, Ishmael Reed has emerged as one of the most innovative and controversial African American writers.
Despite his belief that he and other black male artists have been misrepresented and virtually ignored in the press, he has received more critical attention than almost any other contemporary African American male author. The majority of this criticism has studied Reed's literary innovations and what he once called his Neo-HooDoo aesthetic, which draws on satire and parody, comedy and fantasy, African and African American religion, and myth, history, film, and various other elements of popular culture. Since the 1970s, many articles and reviews have looked at his commitment to multiculturalism, while others have examined his views on gender and how they help define his position in the literary world. This volume chronicles the critical response to Reed's works. Organized by decades, the book centers primarily on Reed's nine published novels. It contains book reviews and essays devoted to these novels, as well as a recent interview in which Reed discusses his works in progress, including Making a Killing, a novel about the O.J. Simpson trial. While Reed has attained success as a poet and social critic, his novels continue to attract most of the attention.
These include a science fiction fantasy, a western, two mysteries, a neo-slave narrative, two political parodies, a trickster tale about contemporary race and gender issues, and a satire on modern academia. The reaction to his works varies from ridicule and condemnation to respect and high praise. A substantial introduction overviews the response to his works, and a chronology lists the major events in his life and career. The volume concludes with extensive bibliographical information.