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Mumbo Jumbo

de Ishmael Reed

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1,0321320,085 (3.77)23
Ishmael Reed's inspired fable of the ragtime era, in which a social movement threatens to suppress the spread of black culture--hailed by Harold Bloom as one of the five hundred greatest books of the Western canon In 1920s America, a plague is spreading fast. From New Orleans to Chicago to New York, the "Jes Grew" epidemic makes people desperate to dance, overturning social norms in the process. Anyone is vulnerable and when they catch it, they'll bump and grind into a frenzy. Working to combat the Jes Grew infection are the puritanical Atonists, a group bent on cultivating a "Talking Android," an African American who will infiltrate the unruly black communities and help crush the outbreak. But PaPa LaBas, a houngan voodoo priest, is determined to keep his ancient culture--including a key spiritual text--alive.     Spanning a dizzying host of genres, from cinema to academia to mythology, Mumbo Jumbo is a lively ride through a key decade of American history. In addition to ragtime, blues, and jazz, Reed's allegory draws on the Harlem Renaissance, the Back to Africa movement, and America's occupation of Haiti. His style throughout is as avant-garde and vibrant as the music at its center.   This ebook features an illustrated biography of Ishmael Reed including rare images of the author.… (mais)
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"The Novel [...] organized systematically and formally to short-circuit an older type of social and historical interpretation which it perpetually holds out and withdraws. [...] A realism that seeks History by way of our own pop images and simulacra of that history, which itself remains forever out of reach." — Fredric Jameson

There was a moment in the late 20th century in which the pre-eminent progressive author (Reed, Doctorow, perhaps also Coover, though I’m loath / to file him in that pigeonhole) was writing bad-on-purpose novels composed entirely of plot — all fat, in the sense that the adverb is excess fat in a sentence, I maintain 'plot' functions like this in the novel — the reading of which is providing a surplus value of pleasure derived from an extra-textual (i.e. romantic political) association in easy sympathy with a heaping of Catch-22 exclamation-mark humor. The difference between this kind of writing and my sympathy with that mantra (from Shelia Heti): "I should put a lot of shit in the play," perhaps comes down to (a different) "Argument From Degree." ( )
  Joe.Olipo | Jan 1, 2024 |
Wanted to like this, but I just couldn't get into it ( )
  TerryDug | Jun 1, 2021 |
There are reports that a strange contagion is sweeping the country, playing hide and seek with the authorities, jumping from one neighborhood to another. Some people think it’s a hoax; others are convinced it is a conspiracy to destroy Western civilization. In Mumbo Jumbo, Ishmael Reed reimagined the past (all the way back) and predicted the future.

Reed drops some clues early as to what he’s getting at. The outbreak (after a fleeting episode in the 1890s) erupts in Congo Square in 1920—not coincidentally the year Charlie Parker was born. Infections spread from New Orleans to Chicago then threaten New York. Mumbo Jumbo. The Jazz Age and the Harlem Renaissance ain’t what they seem.

The new plague is a kind of anti-plague, really, one that enlivens rather than kills its host, causing an outbreak of dancing and sensuousness, people wriggling like fish, ‘lusting after relevance,’ ebullient and ecstatic.

Even the sap in the maple trees moves nasty.

In Reed’s multifaceted presentation, black music & dance, poetry & painting—favoring spontaneity, creativity and free expression over the strictures that would shackle the human spirit—were a challenge to the aesthetic order, and a threat to Western civilization more generally. The battle between opposing aesthetics was an early-20th c. American manifestation of an ancient conflict with origins in Egypt (Sun Ra was right!), renewed in late antiquity when the Church drove the rites associated with the pagan gods underground, where they persisted. The only remedy that the Church and the forces of order thenceforward knew was to ‘beat the living shit out of them.’ The 1915 invasion of Haiti by US Marines was intended as a preemptive strike against a Vodoun invasion, and Warren Harding was pushed into the presidency by agents of a secret society determined to thwart the spread of the ass-shaking epidemic. The plan goes off the rails when Harding exposes the Holy War in Haiti and then is spotted at a rent party in Harlem, with music and dancing as cover for a ‘chitterling switch’ to raise money for an anti-lynching campaign. Harding is suspected of speaking in code to blacks (“The Negro should be the Negro and not an imitation White man”) and of hiding his Negro ancestry and thus must be eliminated as Garfield was. Meanwhile, Marcus Garvey and Black Herman are subverting the intentions of the New Negro to assume his place in the established order; the last remnants of the Knights Templar are in hot pursuit of a band of mu’tafikah that is looting museums (‘pirate dens’) in a campaign to return stolen art to its origins; and the ancient rites have resurfaced as samizdat. At their wits’ end, the agents of order are forced to fight fire with fire—publishing a literary magazine as an organ of disinformation, and concocting a plot to impoverish the country so that people cannot afford radios.

A houngan explains that outbreaks of the dancing plague occurred because the mysteries had no text to turn to. A lost liturgy was seeking its litany. The genius of black people in America, says the houngan, is that they were dumped here on their own without the Book to tell them where the spirits were or how to perform the rites to invoke them and so they made up their own. Blues. Ragtime. Jazz. Inadvertently, they preserved and advanced the Work. With Mumbo Jumbo, the Work once more finds its Word.

Remember to feed the loas.
  JazzBookJournal | Feb 9, 2021 |
Didn't finish. Wanted to love it, because it's clearly important to a particular moment in literature (which is still thoroughly relevant in 2018) and it's wonderfully, wildly postmodern, but it sacrifices too much in its pursuit of that for me to love it. Would love to revisit once I'm less time-poor, and can maybe enjoy it as part of a group read-a-long or with some recreational drugs. ( )
  sometimeunderwater | Feb 19, 2018 |
THE Neo-Hoodoo conspiracy yarn. Imagine if Dan Brown were a poet into jazz music and trance evocation. More necessary than ever.
2 vote paradoxosalpha | Sep 26, 2016 |
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Informação do Conhecimento Comum em inglês. Edite para a localizar na sua língua.
Some 'unknown natural phenomenon' occurs
which cannot be explained,
and a new local demigod is named.

Zora Neale Hurston on the origin of a new loa
The earliest Ragtime songs, like Topsy, "jes grew."
...we appointed about the last one of the "jes grew" songs.
It was a song which had been sung for years
all through the South. The words were unprintable, but
the tune was irresistible, and belonged to nobody.

James Weldon Johnson
'The book of American Negro poetry'
Dedicatória
Informação do Conhecimento Comum em inglês. Edite para a localizar na sua língua.
To my grandmother
Emma Coleman Lewis

And to
Clarence Hill, proprietor of
Libra's on East 6th Street
between A & B

and also for
George Herriman, Afro-American,
who created Krazy Kat.
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Ishmael Reed's inspired fable of the ragtime era, in which a social movement threatens to suppress the spread of black culture--hailed by Harold Bloom as one of the five hundred greatest books of the Western canon In 1920s America, a plague is spreading fast. From New Orleans to Chicago to New York, the "Jes Grew" epidemic makes people desperate to dance, overturning social norms in the process. Anyone is vulnerable and when they catch it, they'll bump and grind into a frenzy. Working to combat the Jes Grew infection are the puritanical Atonists, a group bent on cultivating a "Talking Android," an African American who will infiltrate the unruly black communities and help crush the outbreak. But PaPa LaBas, a houngan voodoo priest, is determined to keep his ancient culture--including a key spiritual text--alive.     Spanning a dizzying host of genres, from cinema to academia to mythology, Mumbo Jumbo is a lively ride through a key decade of American history. In addition to ragtime, blues, and jazz, Reed's allegory draws on the Harlem Renaissance, the Back to Africa movement, and America's occupation of Haiti. His style throughout is as avant-garde and vibrant as the music at its center.   This ebook features an illustrated biography of Ishmael Reed including rare images of the author.

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