Essays About Ishmael

Essays About Ishmael-8
As the narrator of Pallbearers, Doopeyduk speaks literally from the grave.

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The rites of passage established by Wright, Ellison, and Baldwin in their fiction are stripped of their dramatic force and reduced to the pratfalls of a burlesque routine. But between these extremes the prose often stalls in orthographical and grammatical posturing—misspelling for the hell of it.

Finally, then, the problem with Doopeyduk's posthumous voice is that it is too obviously worked, too strained in its license.

And therein lies the problem that has informed his subsequent fiction, Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down (1969) and Mumbo Jumbo (1972).

How does one comprehend the significance of Burroughs' narrative form, write in the parodic manner of Thomas Pynchon and Donald Barthelme, and at the same time hold an opposed view of history, an optative, almost Emersonian sense of the dawning day?

Yet if Reed manages to erase the whiteness in his writing (the well-wrought form and rhetoric that won Baldwin so much critical praise) and breaks conclusively with the traditional novel, he does not emerge with a contrary Black style.

The language of Pallbearers is an orchestration of idiolects, conflicting types of speech that caricature their speakers, but no single voice rules this contrived discordance….

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.

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.


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