the bullies ishmael reed takes on in his collection of essays are from the print and electronic media. radio hosts and writers, don imus, john h mcwhorter, david simon, creator of the hbo series, The Wire, the producers and publishers who hire them, the networks, political periodicals -- nor are the clintons, william and hilliary, given free rein for their remarks about barack obama when he was running for the presidency -- are some of the bullies reed calls out, using to bulk up for his arguments reports from journalism, history, documents, personal experiences and interviews.
often dismissed as a crank, which he is far from, and ignored by popular and prominent media voices, reed armed with his research, intelligence and boldness, appears to have read and seen and heard everything.
though some of reed's quick jabbing opinions are off base comments, such as his comments against some of philip roth's fictional characters, he is either making a point by retaliation in kind of the type of attacks designed for emotional flare-ups he finds perpetrated in the media or, unlike the media darlings, he is offering a challenge. either way he does not back down.
Mixing It Up also has its essays on heroes. reed champions mile davis, sonny Rollins, and the nineteenth century black american writer, charles chesnutt, who has his a volume included in the Library of America writers series, his short stories taught in high schools, and his novels and papers studied in universities. in an age when the media elevates a couple of black writers per season for audience marketability and a moment of fame, ishmael reed writes an essay about the life and works of chesnutt, a writer no one else mentions when discussing black writers. in other essays about the abuse of contemporary black journalists and popular black entertainers and media figures, he refers to chesnutt as an example of a black journalist who endured similar treatment and marginalized by the media of his day.
in his essay, Miracle at Ein Raz, reed moves from editorial pieces and literary and jazz reviews to a political travel report of trips taken to jerusalem, which includes an interview he conducted with two palestinian american professors in california.
reed, also a university professor, primarily of american studies, remains generous in sharing authors he reads and teaches, which always makes for an eclectic mix and reason in itself to read his non fiction books. chances are you will come away with something good to read by an author maybe unknown to you, as he reports the time when he `...began teaching at San Jose State University as an occupant of the endowed Lurie Chair, I started to receive e-mails from representatives of the International Union of Hotel Workers requesting that I cancel a speech I had scheduled to make before the convention held by the California Association of Teachers of English.' several paragraphs later he writes: `Coincidentally, four of the books that I had chosen to use in a course called Special Topics, dealt with labor and unions: Chester Himes's Lonely Crusade, William Kennedy's Ironweed, Jack Conroy's The Disinherited, and Frank Chin's Donald Duk, which covers an 1867 strike waged by two thousand Chinese railroad workers in the High Sierras.'
how's that for mixing it up? pretty good, if you ask me.