Friday, August 26, 2011

Michael Boccia | Review of Ishmael Reed's Cab Calloway Stands in For the Moon

Michael Boccia
Review of Ishmael Reed's Cab Calloway Stands in For the Moon

Cab Calloway Stands in For the Moon, Ishmael Reed. (Flint, Michigan: Bamberger Books, 1986).

Prehistoric light fell on the first mystical incantation written to drive away evil spirits, and once again this ancient ritual has come to light. A spell has been cast. As the chief disciple of the Neoamerican Hoodoo Church, Ishamel Reed has unleashed his black magic once again through his new edition of Cab Calloway Stands in For the Moon.

The most obvious critical question to ask about this work is whether it is poetry or prose. It is neither, yet it is both. It is, as its subtitle explains, "D Hexocism of Noxon D Awful (D Man Who Was Spelled Backwards)," that is a hex, a spell, a conjure. One foot in poetry, one foot in prose, this piece is in the netherworld of genre. Reed's creations are usually curses against convention, spells upon spelling, sins against syntax, libels on language. This work is no different. In this "herorcism," Papa La Bas uses his spectral powers, his mojo, to drive off an enemy of the people, the evil Noxon, who pollutes the planet and destroys democracy.

Reed is most innovative through the imitation and synthesis of diverse art forms into writing. He fractures forms as we know them, and then fuses new shapes from the wreckage. Reed parodies form as such as he parodies ideologies by distorting familiar and traditional art forms to his own ends. Cab Calloway Stands in For the Moon is surrealistic, made of history and poetry, lists and musings, nightmares and dramas, all rolled into a crystal ball wherein Reed sees the foibles of Western culture. ...Like most of Reed's work, this piece is a satire, with humor and politics forming a sweet and sour mix. Controversial on race, sex, politics, freedom, religion and everything else, his satiric barbs intentionally provoke his audiences yet are wonderfully ironic, witty, and humorous. The allegorical object of ridicule [in this book] is the Presidency as personified by Richard Nixon. Even the password for entry into Papa La Bas's coven in "Nix on Noxon." Attacking establishment positions on capitalism, materialism, and imperialism, Reed leaves few sacred cowns ignored by his sharp pen.... [Michael Boccia, The Review of Contemporary Fiction]

Copyright (c)1986 by Michael Boccia

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