Ishmael Reed: Literary Ambulance Chaser?

by Ralph Dumain

January 13, 1986
Editor, The Mail
City Paper

Ishmael Reed's account* of the political agenda of the New York City intellectual power structure was potentially thought-provoking but vague. Reed melds Stalinists, New-Leftists, liberals, and neoconservatives into a single power structure which among other unspecified aims has promoted an ultra-radical black nationalist program. His remarks about the role of Farrakhan were uncommonly perceptive, and truthful. Reed excoriates Baldwin for his alleged anti-white, anti-Western stand. Reed disapproves of third world despotism, Caucasian-baiting, elitism, and losing touch with the predominantly Christian black masses. He even recognizes a distinction between working class white males and those with money and power. I am amazed by Reed's turnabout, when I think of his novel Mumbo Jumbo, a piece of occultist racial-mystical filth that glorifies non-white slave civilizations, promotes a paranoid anti-Western attitude, wallows in esotericism, insults Jesus for being a second-rate conjuror, and promotes a theory of psychic epidemics lifted straight out of the writings of racial-mystic Nazi collaborator Carl Jung. Now Reed is class-conscious. Reaganism must have sobered him up.

* Ishmael Reed's "Literary Ambulance Chaser," a scathing review of James Baldwin's Evidence of Things Not Seen, appeared in the Washington City Paper, January 10, 1986.

(My letter to the editor was published in "The Mail" column, Washington City Paper, January 17 or 24, 1986.)

©1986, 2001 Ralph Dumain

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