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The Free-Lance Pallbearers (1999)

The Free-Lance Pallbearers (1999)

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3.69 of 5 Votes: 4
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1564782255 (ISBN13: 9781564782250)
dalkey archive press

About book The Free-Lance Pallbearers (1999)

Reed does not get the respect nor the addition to the canon he should have years ago. This is a marvelous book which makes Pynchon's CRYING OF LOT 49 look like a picture book for beginner readers. The dialect is masterful, the distortions adapt, and the message clear. Reed manages to weave a poetry around his satire, which does not lessen its devastating leveling of all it gazes upon. As a reflection of the post Kennedy Assassination years in America, I can think of no novel that rivals its grasp on City living and the black population's weird obsessions and modern hucksterism.HARRY SAM is a ruler who will not leave the bathroom. From his toilet seat perch he keeps a close eye on all the goings on in his fiefdom. The manipulation of the Nazarene theology allows our hero, Bukka Doopeyduk, to Booker T Washington through his world holding on to an achievement of faith and a good grasp on proper sounding English. Little good it does him in the end, where we find him hanging by meathooks in Soulsville's square. But by then, we, the readers, have already accepted the tirades against Rutherford Birchard Hayes' Jim Crow inflicted blindness, the dognapping of Checkers Nixon, and the Black Bay's monstrous creatures. Overall, a masterpiece of vignettes that when pulled together make a compelling satire, but as a straight narrative fiction, the book would stand as a confusing jumble of nonsense."Anyway, I'm just the agent, kinda like a catalyst. Little does the Joo know that I'm secretly collecting milk bottles and rags as I prepare for 'Git It On' right under my man's nose. See, I'm a poet down here in this artistic community, going around saying mothafuka in public by night, but by day I'm stacking milk bottles in the closet instead of taking them back to the store for the two cents deposit. that's what you might call out-maneuvering whitey.""There's not two-cent deposit on milk bottles these days, and they're disposable," I said. p.98

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Ishmael Reed is another unread unsung hero of American literature, relegated to a footnote in the canon for not being white and macho and writing about what happens behind closed doors in the wheatiest windiest nooks of the Midwest. His debut novel (this one) announces his important, original voice among the muscles and machismo. Reed’s language combines the free-wheeling rhythms of jazz and Beat poetry with erudite slapdown of Swift’s satire and Joyce’s tireless lexical invention. The first fifty pages of this cartwheeling absurdist satire electrify, dazzle, slapsmackbangwallop the reader with their hilarious, sui generis flightiness. This being a novel in the rollicking sixties language-as-music style, its absurdity has weary moments. But you’ve certainly never read writing like this before, unless you’ve read another Reed.
—MJ Nicholls

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