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Posts Tagged ‘Mumbo Jumbo’

Josephine Baker - Kees van Dongen, 1925

Josephine Baker – Kees van Dongen, 1925

I saw her a year before she died. She was greeting people at the Rainbow Sign in Berkeley, California. Ntozake Shange, a poet and playwright, coaxed me into the receiving line because I was shy. And when it came my turn I presented her with a copy of [Mumbo Jumbo,] the novel on whose cover I had used an old photo of her to represent two sides of the Vodoun goddess Erzulie. And she flashed that famous smile and squinted those famous eyes and she said, ‘Do you know the young man who wrote this book?’ I was so awestruck, I said, ‘Yes, ma’am, I knows him,’ forgetting that that young man was me. That was Josephine Baker. Such a divine presence she made you forget yourself.

– Ishmael Reed in the New York Times Book Review, December 12, 1976

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According to the astrologer Evangeline Adams, America is born at 3:03 on the 4th of July, Gemini Rising. It is to be mercurial, restless, violent. It looks to the Philippines and calls gluttony the New Frontier. It looks to South America and intervenes in the internal affairs of its nations; piracy is termed “bringing about stability.” If the British prose style is Churchillian, America is the tobacco auctioneer, the barker; Runyon, Lardner, W.W., the traveling salesman who can sell the world the Brooklyn Bridge every day, can put anything over on you and convince you that tomatoes grow at the South Pole. If in the 1920s the British say “The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire,” the American motto is “There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute.” America is the smart-aleck adolescent who’s “been around” and has his own hot rod…

Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo, 1972

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