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Mumbo Jumbo (Scribner Paperback Fiction) Paperback – 1 Jun 1996

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 223 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Scribner Paperback Fiction edition (1 Jun. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684824779
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684824772
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 303,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"The Boston Globe"

Brilliant, phantasmal, eccentric...A visionary comic myth.



"The Saturday Review"

A "HooDoo" thriller, an all-out assault on Western civilization...Reed's best novel.



"The New York Times"

Part vision, part satire, part farce...A wholly original, unholy cross between the craft of fiction and witchcraft.



Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Author of "Colored people"

From its title on, "Mumbo Jumbo" serves as a critique of black and Western literary forms and conventions, and of the complex relationships between the two.



"The Boston Globe"Brilliant, phantasmal, eccentric...A visionary comic myth.

"The Saturday Review"A "HooDoo" thriller, an all-out assault on Western civilization...Reed's best novel.

"The New York Times"Part vision, part satire, part farce...A wholly original, unholy cross between the craft of fiction and witchcraft.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.Author of "Colored people"From its title on, "Mumbo Jumbo" serves as a critique of black and Western literary forms and conventions, and of the complex relationships between the two.

"The New York Times" Part vision, part satire, part farce...A wholly original, unholy cross between the craft of fiction and witchcraft.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Author of "Colored people" From its title on, "Mumbo Jumbo" serves as a critique of black and Western literary forms and conventions, and of the complex relationships between the two.

"The Boston Globe" Brilliant, phantasmal, eccentric...A visionary comic myth.

James Baldwin A great writer.

"The Saturday Review" A "HooDoo" thriller, an all-out assault on Western civilization...Reed's best novel.

From the Back Cover

Mumbo Jumbo is Ishmael Reed's brilliantly satiric deconstruction of Western civilization, a racy and uproarious commentary on our society.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The novel deserves five stars for any number of reasons. Two good reasons are 1) it's specifically referenced in Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, and 2) its pictorial content shifts with each printing. Am I fool or what, but don't some of those photographs speak more than a thousand words? Yeah yeah, on one level, the more superficial one perhaps, the novel serves up African-American cultural apologetics. But I must encourage the *serious* reader to take in the several subtexts on all subsequent readings. Anyone out there recall the Bard paperback printing from the late Seventies? Put that one in your family photo album!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa2ebb2b8) out of 5 stars 48 reviews
95 of 97 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa2f1ffa8) out of 5 stars delightful. irreverent. engrossing. /or/ IT'S ALIVE! 8 July 2002
By notaprofessional - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is getting a bad rap from editorial reviews on this page--all seemingly from the same college English class who were apparently required to write reviews whether they had anything to say or made an earnest attempt at reading. (Thanks for the sharing your tantrums with us, Teach.)
It's great. There's a story there, but it doesn't read like Aesop or Mother Goose. There are themes and messages aplenty, but not if you focus on your frustration with the look and feel of the book. As other reviews have indicated, there is a collage effect here. The juxtaposition of historical and fictional characters and situations is a tongue-in-cheek way of understanding how the dead white men of yore responded to the presence of an African cultural presence in the US despite myriad safeguards against it.
In Reed's nothing-short-of-brilliant book, the Wallflower Order (guess which of the two previously described groups they are) get all bent out of shape because there's this "mumbo jumbo" "voodoo" dancing breaking out even in society's most prudish circles. Where did it come from? It "Jes Grew". And so it becomes--an epidemic!
Anyone who has ever considered the question of "soul" will enjoy this book. Anyone who enjoys detective novels would really like this book as that is the basic style--but if you're coming straight from Agatha Christie, maybe do some decompression someplace before you dive in, 'cause it won't be as rigidly predetermined.
If you go to an airport bookshop and see plenty formulaic bestsellers you'd rather read, stick with your conscience and do that. If you're ready to read a book that invites you to take part in the construction of the plot, this book is for you. If you want to have a good time as an *active* reader of a somewhat living text (consider, for example, how different printings of this book change), and if you can recognize a few simple conventions to give you guidance when the next page doesn't drag you by the hand to the next paragraph, get this book.
Despite all the "postmodern" and "deconstruction" accolades for this book, one need not know what those words mean in order to thoroughly enjoy this book. The plot develops in a linear way, but rather than "this happened, then this happened," you get "this happened. This is happening. [a picture of something happening.] a headline: SOMETHING HAPPENED." There is still a chronological series of events, but you have to connect the dots as you go along--a skill apparently not best honed whenever the students who reviewed this book get around to their reading assignments.
Characters are likewise reliable as in other books one might read. It's like trying anything new, though: the style of this book will require of you that you have enough confidence and perseverance as a reader to see what is there--if you'd rather gripe about how you'd prefer not to be actively involved in the reading, get Bush's catarpillar book instead.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa2f4839c) out of 5 stars Unable to stop dancing 13 Jan. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The hero is PaPa LaBas, a New Orleans "houngan" who is trying to discover the source (the Text) of a "psychic plague" called "Jes Grew" which is sweeping the nation in the 1920s (whether you interpret it to mean Ragtime or the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance). J.G.C.s, or its "carriers," are overcome by a passionate desire to dance and have a good time. Their militant wing, the "Mu'tafikah" (I love that name), are involved in activities like art-napping non-Western artifacts (African masks and sculpture, a giant Olmec head from Central America) from the Center of Art Detention (which not surprisingly, has the same address as the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and returning them to the places where they come from. They're opposed by the "Atonists" (the bluenoses, those dedicated to the glorification of Western culture, the Protestant work ethic, etc.) and its affiliated organization, the Wallflower Order (whose motto is "Lord, if I can't dance, no one will"). Reed's work always lampoons historical figures, fictional and literary characters, and especially religion. The character named "Hinckle Von Vampton" (a parody of Carl Van Vechten, the literary agent for many black writers in the 1920s) is a Wallflower member who infiltrates the Harlem community to manipulate its artists and destroy the movement. He plans to start a magazine featuring a Talking Android who will tell the J.G.C.s that Jes Grew is not ready for primetime and "owes a large debt to Irish Theater." Reed satirizes everyone and everything from Warren G. Harding's ancestry to Irene Castle, the dance instructor who was used by the Establishment to show Americans the "Castle Way," and denounce the so-called Animal Dances (many with Black origins, like the "Turkey Trot," the "Bunny Hug," the "Chicken Scratch, the "Possum Trot," etc) as "ugly," "ungraceful," and "out of fashion." You always learn something about American history and culture by reading an Ishmael Reed novel, although not always immediately. At the top of page 184 is a photo of what appears to be a black clergyman surrounded by three rows of mostly African-American men in formal wear, including W.E.B. Du Bois. The photo at the bottom of the page is of a diverse group, including the author, standing around a statue of Buddha with mountains in the background. Does it mean anything? I'm not sure, however, I think that during this period there was resistance to jazz music by some of the African-American elite, and although I'm not qualified to comment on Du Bois's views, the photo could be a kind of satirizing. I know that James Weldon Johnson (who is referred to in the novel, as are Harlem Renaissance figures Claude McKay, Wallace Thurman, Countee Cullen, and the fictional Nathan Brown) praised Black music and co-wrote some famous music and lyrics. But I'm not even going to venture a guess about the intended target of Reed's satire in the character of Hubert "Safecracker" Gould, Von Vampton's colleague who delivers the hilarious epic poem, "Harlem Tom Toms" (for BJF) to a high-society audience.
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa2efbde0) out of 5 stars Not for everybody, but I liked it. 2 Feb. 2000
By Larry Leroy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This novel is not going to appeal to those with a need for a clear and linear narrative. Much like the Pynchon's Crying of Lot 49, this books grabs the reader and drags him through a thousand years of history.
Make sure that you have done a refresher on the Crusades and the Harlem Renaissance so you can keep up with the some of the allusions. Make no mistake this is a dense little novel and requires close attention to all the characters and the different names they go buy.
Though difficult, the novel turns out to be one of the finest and most innovative in it depiction of the how race and culture have come to together and tranformed one another in America.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa307abb8) out of 5 stars A brilliant, entertaining, insightful, funny novel 11 Feb. 1999
By Stephen Sossaman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I've read this novel three times and think it will become a twentieth-century classic, and one of the most enjoyable ones at that. Mumbo Jumbo suggests an explanation for why white culture and black culture in the US are so different (white culture into death and repression, black into earthiness and good living), mythically rooted in a split between the races at the time of the Osiris myth in Egypt. All this with great humor!
If you need a one sentence statement of its story, the novel is about how the white establishment tries to stamp out an epidemic of "jes grew," which is the need to dance, to express one's soul, embodied in jazz spreading from New Orleans to other cities, even (horrors!) to white youth. The novel uses postmodernist techniques (e.g. anomalies, pastiche, document quotation) and moves back and forth from its why whites can't dance and were alarmed at the "jungle music" of jazz and by the sensuality of the jitterbug, Black Muslim values (Reed doesn't like them), New Orleans voo doo,the Knights Templar, the Harlem Renaissance, and first world theft of other cultures' artifacts.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa2a24e10) out of 5 stars Mumbo Jumbo: one of the pioneers of narrative collage 26 Sept. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Reed's Mumbo Jumbo is, in the words of the author himself, a "gumbo" of styles and content, and consequently it reads quite differently from a more conventional narrative guided by a single style and voice. In fact, in some of his earliest interviews Reed explains that his interest in this novel (as well as a couple previous ones) was to explore dadaistic-collage forms of writing, and in the opinion of this reviewer he succeeds beautifully in Mumbo Jumbo.
The use of literary collage immediately brings to mind W. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, the latter of whom Reed actually met in the mid-Sixties. It's likely that Gysin's views on extending collage techniques from the visual arts to the literary had at least an indirect influence on Reed's approach to Mumbo Jumbo.
Another novel (which even mentions Reed by name in its narrative on p. 588!) called Gravity's Rainbow shows similar use of collage as a means of subverting more normal narrative tendencies. So then, besides Gysin there's also a Pynchon connection.
And one last thing: Mumbo Jumbo has "changed" with time--that is, if you find a copy of the book from, say, 1978, and compare it to one from, say, 2000, you'll find that some of the photos in the old version have been replaced by different photos. The reader is never told this outright, and Reed never explains if there's a reason behind it, but . . . well, I guess it's just more of that random-factor dadaism rearing its subsersive head.
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