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Ishmael Reed (Ishmael Scott Reed) Biography

(1938– ), (Ishmael Scott Reed), The Free-Lance Pallbearers, Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down

American novelist and poet, born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, educated at the University of Buffalo. Highly innovative and experimental, Reed's novels weave American myths and legends into a playful pattern of parody which satirizes many aspects of contemporary America, and radically re-evaluates its past. His first novel, The Free-Lance Pallbearers (1967), parodies early African-American autobiographical narratives in order to set up a confrontation between its folk hero, Harry Sam, and the repressive authority of the American state, personified by a dragon. Other novels include Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down (1969), about a black cowboy; Mumbo-Jumbo (1972), set in 1920s New Orleans and Harlem, with a multiple and mythic text, which includes drawings, photographs, and collages; The Last Days of Louisiana Red (1974), his idiosyncratic vision of student political activism at Berkeley in the 1960s; Flight to Canada (1976), an attack on the slavery and Civil War periods of American history; and The Terrible Twos (1982). Other novels satirizing aspects of American life—feminist extremism, Reaganist eccentricity, the politics of the campus—are Reckless Eye-balling (1986), The Terrible Threes (1989), and Japanese by Spring (1993). Often typographically playful, his books of poetry include Catechism of D Neoamerican HooDoo Church (1970), Conjure: Selected Poems 1963–1970 (1972), and New and Collected Poems (1988). His essays are collected in Shrovetide in Old New Orleans (1978), God Made Alaska for the Indians (1982), and Airing Dirty Linen (1993). See also ethnicity.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: David Rabe Biography to Rhinoceros (Rhinocéros)