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October 14, 1973 - Image 4

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Michigan Daily, 1973-10-14

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Page Four

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Sunday, October 14, 1 Y f 3

Page Fo u rTHE MICHIGAN DAILY 5unday, October 14, 1913

Reed.
By EUGENE ROBINSON
MUMBO JUMBO By
Ishmael Reed. New York;
Bantam paperback, 249
pages, $1.50.
CHATTANOOGA By
Ishmael Reed. New York;
Random House, 55 pages,
$5.00
ISHMAEL REED writes crazy
nonsensical novels that would
be totally irrelevant if-.not for
the fact that they always event-
ually make a point. Full of al-
legory and humor and slap-
diddle, they slither between fact
and fantasy like a crafty snake
hiding in the grass.
His books would have to be
placed in the large, loose cate-
gory of the socially important
historical novel. But such a def-
inition is misleading: His his-
tory is of his own creation,
wildly rewritten to fit his manic
vision of the past; and his
works can be called novels only
in the broadest sense of the

Chronicling

word, as they sometimes show
little or no characterization and
contain plots as coherent as a
Pentagon press briefing.
Reed's main virtue lies in the
fact that he is the liveliest and
most significant black novelist
writing today. His books are
about blacks, but not about ac-
complishments or achievements
or the NAACP, for C h r i s t' s
sake. Reed instead manages to
chronicle the spirit of black
people as few o t h e r writers
have. And though he sometimes
despairs that this spirit is dy-
ing, the sheer exuberance of his
writings attests to the fact that
it lives on, at least in him.
SQ WHAT ANA I talking about?
Mumbo Jumbo, that's what.
Mumbo Jumbo relates at break-
neck speed the rise and fall of
a mystical, black-influenced "di-
sease" called "Jes Grew" (As
in, I don't - know how this
blamed thing started, it jes'
grew'). The book is a curious
cross between voodoo and writ-

ing, with Reed proving himself
a master of both.
In a confused nutshell, Jes'
Grew begins in New Orleans,
much to the chagrin of the
p o w e r s that be. A constant
theme running through Reed's
work is the notion of the exist-
ence of a mystical society that
secretly controls the world. This
mythical organization takes on
different forms from novel to
novel. In Mumbo Jumbo, it is
the clandestine Wallflower Or-
der. Infected with Jes' Grew,
all the young folks are dancin',
jitterbuggin' mind you, and that
just ain't the way it should be.
The Wallflower Order does not
like the looks of things one bit,
and are willing to take any
means .necessafy to restore to
the world the austerity and dull-
ness that they so righteously
covet.
The bizarre course of this in-
sanity is seen through the eyes
of Papa Labas, a black mystic
and the proprietor of the Mum-

the]
bo J u m b o Kathedral, a New
York voodoo house. Jes' Grew
begins to spread from its hum-
ble beginnings in the Louisiana
bayou, s 1 o w I y, inexorably to-
ward New York. That's the key
. . . the time factor . . . be-
cause if it reaches New York,
the whole world will be doomed
to this jitterbuggin', jive-ass
phenomenon.
J ES' GREW, of course, is a
metaphor for the famed Har-
lem Renaissance of the Twen-
ties-a time of flowering for
black arts and letters, a time
when blacks like Countee Cul-
len and W.E.B. DuBois and a
host of others got uppity. A
masterstroke is that Reed chose
this time period, this time of
great black expressiveneess, as
the nexus for his description of
the black spirit. There was
something mystical then, some-
thing essentially vital, some-
thing which Reed suggests has
been gone for a long time and
won't be around again for a

black
while.
The book's liner notes make
it clear that R e e d considers
himself first of all a poet. Chat-
tanooga, his latest slim volume
of verse, places Mumbo Jumbo,
Yellow-Back Radio Broke Down,
and The Free-Lance Pallbear-
ers-his three exciting novels_
in the unlikely position of a
backdrop and explanation for
his poetry. Reed's poems may
be his most significant work.
Chattanooga's verse is bitter,
funny, a 1 w a y s ironic, well-
phrased; and once again an ex-
position of the black spirit. The
title poem is about Reed's home
town, and he openly shows his
bitterness on the s u b j e c t:
"Chattanooga w h o s e Howard
Dunbar Negro I School taught
my mother Latin / Whose Mil-
ler Bros. Department / Store
cheated my Uncle out of / What
was coming to him / A pension,
he had only 6 Months to go /
Chattanooooooooooooooooga.
The p o e in "Chattanooga,"

spirit
with its bitterness, is positioned
at the front of the book, a load
Reed apparently felt obliged to
get off his chest. Other poems
like "Haitians," "Skirt Dance,"
and "The Decade That Scream-
ed" reiterate Reed's fascination
with voodoo and black mysti-
cism.
The poems are entertaining
and meaningful in their own
right, but they take on new sig-
nificance when viewed in the
context of his novels. They be-
gin to make sense, establish a
pattern, describe a black spir-
itualism too multifaceted and
diffuse to explicate here. -
REED HAS shown that heg has
has a unified and signifi-
cant vision of the world, and he
imparts that vision with great
spunk. Highly recommended.
Eugene Robinson, Co-Edi-
tor of The Doily, has a dan-
gerously close affinity for
Ishmael Reed.

Makingfriends
with yourself
HOW TO BE YOUR OWN
BEST FRIEND by Mildred
Newman and Bernard Berk-
owitz; Random House, New
York; 54 pages; $4.95.

- --------- ---

PRESTON STURGES'
PALM BEACH STORY
Great screwball comedy features Claudette Colbert,
Joel McDrea, Mary Astor and Rudy Vallee in the
unlikely roles of a husband and wife posing as a
brother and sister in order to fool an eccentric
heiress and her brother.
SHORT: Chaplin's THE PAWNSHOP
TUES.: William Wyler's THE LITTLE FOXES
A RC HIT ECT U RE A UD.
CIN EMA GUILD Tomight at AU7
and 9:05 Adm. $1

VONNEGUT'S LATEST:
Healing a

By LAURA BERMAN
I LIKE How to Be Your Own
Best Friend 'because it is short
and direct and optimistic-be-
cause it says a lot of encourag-
ing things about anyone's poten-
tial to become a self-motivated,
fulfilled individual. Apparently,
other people like this book too be-
cause it has soared to the top
of the bestseller lists without any
gimmicks. No seagull wings. No
sex. No glossy bookjacket. And
the authors are named Mildred
Newman and Bernard Berkowitz.
Still, the success of How to Be
Your Own Best Friend is hardly
surprising. It does, after all, fit
neatly into the category of the
"wise little book." As Richard
Bach or Rod McKuen or even
Kahlil Gibran could tell you, wise
little books are big business. It's
easy to understand their popu-
larity: No one likes to read long
books and-everyone likes to read
something that reveals beauty or
wisdom or even sadness without
having to bother with symbols
or big words. Why read Anna
Karenina when Love Story is
one-eighth the length?
There is another reason for
this book's success: People, are
unhappy and How to Be Your
Own Best Friend purports to
show a way to happiness.
THE AUTHORS are two psyco-
analysts who write in father-
ly reassuring tones about "posi-
tive hypnosis" and self-responsi-
bility. They. claim that most peo-
ple are afraid of success, afraid
of testing their lirits, afraid of
becoming adults. Most are un-
willing to relinquish their child
life and their child dreams; peo-
ple search for figures to replace

d

Ing plc
It is the fortune of a few
writers to carry places clearly
in their heads that they can
transport others with their vi-

BREAKFAST OF CHAM-
PIONS or GOODBYE BLUE
MONDAY By Kurt Vonne-
gut. New York: Delacorte
Press, 295 pages, $7.95
By MARNIE HEYN
Although the dust jacket for
Breakfast of Champions or Good-
bye, Blue Monday has an in-
signia which labels it 'AbNovel,'
Kurt Vonnegut's latest book, is
no novel. Since the book reads
like Billy Pilgrim's life in
RADIO KING
& HIS

U of M and EMU NITE
MONDAY
Bring Student I.D. and get in FREE
DISCOUNTS ON PITCHERS OF BEER
341 S. MAIN-ANN ARBOR
A Moving Experience in Sound and Light
- U

Court of
Rhythm

Slaughterhouse Five-a series of
disconnected incidents - a more
precise classification is impos-
sible.
If I weren't a devout Vonne-
gut fan, I doubt I would have
read this crazed ramble of lies,
painfully acute perceptions, and
comic hilarity. In fact, I browsed
through it in a bookstore and put
it back on the shelf, even
though it was on the New York
Times Best Seller List. To be
completely honest, that's prob-
ably why I didn't read it.
That was* my (slightly arro-
gant) mistake. Which is ok, since
Breakfast of Champions is also
slightly arrogant in an intellec-
tual sense, full of puns and out-.
rage and true fiction. Vonnegut
maniacs will soon be able to get
the paperback edition, and sit
back and enjoy as the author
plays with his self.
N WHAT HE terms his fiftieth-
birthday present to himself,
Vonnegut undergoes a marked
transition in style. The journal-
istic precision that dragged read-
ers, kicking and screaming,
through some very ugly terrain,
has been transmuted by the
writer's wish to startle a dying
planet back to health. This prose
is both more tender and more
caustic than other Vonnegut I
have read-or read into.
Another metamorphosis is the
degree to which the author in-
terjects his own persona into his
prose. Earlier, Vonnegut ada-
nantly isolated himself from his
characters.hI always guessed that
hie liked them, but I was also
afraid that he hated them. His
point of view is now clearly sym-
pathetic, although I'm sure he'll
never stop tearing his hair over
our collective foibles. Vonnegut's
auto is now part of his episodic
planetary biography.
DAVID'S BOOKS
NEW ADDRESS:
209 S. STATE-663-8441
25% OFF
our bodies ourselves, summerhill,
massage, ixtlan, tokien etc.

inet
Monday was laundry day. He de-
velops one ad campaign for
white people ("Off to the bridge
club while my Robo-Magic does
the wash! Goodbye Blue Mon-
day!") and one for black people
("Feets, 'get movin'! Dey's got
theirselves a Robo-Magic! Dey
ain't gonna be needin' us 'round
here no mo'!").
The neatest lie of all is Von-
negut'sndeclaration thatshe is
freeing the characters who have
served him so faithfully. He
surely knows, as the book jacket
remarks, that his behavior will
haves the same result as Tolstoy
freeing his serfs, or Jefferson his
slaves: "They used human be-
ings for machinery, and, even
after slavery was eliminated, be-
cause it was so embarrassing,
they and their descendants con-
tinued to think of ordinary hu-
man beings as machines." But
the "machines" refuse to disap-
pear.
Even if Vonnegut never again
mentions Kilgore Trout, he sure-
ly will borrow pithy quotes from
the poor battered science fiction
"machine," b e c a u s e Trout's
anecdotes are graphic horror
stories about what humans are
doing to each other, and to the
planet.
And as Kilgore Trout's epitaph
warns, "We are healthy only -to
the extent that our ideas are
humane."

books

their parents and to give them
guidance instead of looking with-
in themselves.
Mildred Newman and Bernard
Berkowitz recommend a philoso-
phy that falls someplace between
Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nor-
man Vincent Peale. They say
your own best friend is yourself
so crawl out of the womb and
stop relying on others. Make
your own choices and accept re-
sponsibility for them. Don't deni-
grate yourself when you are in
error but never forget to con-
gratulate yourself when you do
something commendable. And re-
member, "We are accountable
only to ourselves for what hap-
pens to us in our lives."
NONE OF THIS is earth shat-
tering stuff and if you looked,
you -could probably find most of
what the authors say in other
sources, starting with the Bible.
How to Be Your Own Best
Friend is valuable not for its
originality, but for the authors'
straightforward approach to their
subject. At 54 pages, it's a wise
little book.

I

1

NEW JAZZ CLUB!
FEA TURING
THE NEW GILEVANS
20 pc. orchestra
Thurs., Fri., Sat.
October 18-19-20
LARRY CORYELL
October 25
(ONE NIGHT ONLY)

IMONDAY

sion: Dickens' London, Keroac's
Denver, Hemingway's northern
Michigan. How fitting it is that
a man caught in an chronosyn-
clastic infundibulium has the
same gift: now we have Vonne-
gut's Indianapolis-and perhaps
his Ann Arbor?
I suspect that Vonnegut extra-
polated here from his experi-
ences asiWriter in Residence at
the 'U' in 1969 to create an en-
vironment for the meeting of
Dwayne Hoover, berserk Pontiac
dealer, and K i l g o r e Trout,
science fiction w r i t e r. It is
Trout's thesis-that all people
other, than the reader are really-
machines-which finally drives
Dwayne over the brink. There's
a haunting familiarity about the
Center for the Arts on the hill,
lit up like the moon, where Von-
negut, introducing himself as
author into the book, is invited
to a convocation.
N0 MATTER. One old friend
Vonne-gut. stays in touch with
is the creative -lie. His tongue-in-
cheek inaccuracy begins with
the compound title, Breakfast of
Champions is a name for both
martinis and Wheaties breakfast
cereal. He elsewhere calls the
former "yeast shit" and the lat-
ter "the poison we have to buy
to insure survival." He says no
disparagement of either in in-
tended. Like hell.
Another creative lie, Goodbye
Blue Monday is the advertising
brainstorm of an. executive of
the Robo-Magic Company, hatch-
ed out of his misconception that
the reason working people hated

Garage Sale:

_. t

at the

PRIMO

SHOWBAR

No deal

UAC-DAYSTAR presents
\{.
a 4
1 Y
B. B. K"ING
also RADIO KING and his COURT OF RHYTHM
featuring the SOULFUL SOULMATES
This FRIDAY night, Oct.19--8 p.m.
Hill Aud. $3.50-4.50-5.00-5.50 reserved
ON SALE NOW MICHIGAN UNION
11-5:30 M-F 1-4 Sat.
SORRY NO CHECKS .
\'

KESEY'S GARAGE SALE
By Ken Kesey, Viking Press,
New York, 238 pages, $3.95.
By MARTIN PORTER
THIS BOOK was surprisingly
poor, and it wasn't worth fin-
ishing. An odd beginning for a
book review but nonetheless .-.
I found the "5 Hot Items" in
Kesey's Garage Sale to be no
better than the molding, tatter-
ed, and antiquated items that the
name implies.
I am temptedto stop here but
one does not blast a Californian
wunderkind, famed novelisttand
LSD guru and get away with it
so easily. I must explain.
It all started . . .
Larry was knocking violently
on my door trying to rouse me
from my cavernous slumber. I
stumbled to the door and was
greeted by a blast of ecstatic
glee.
"Kesey's new book is out," he
beamed. "I called Viking Press."
THE NEWS settled in me slow-

ly. It had been a long time
since Kesey had written a book.
Sometimes a Great Notion and
One Flew over a Cuckoos Nest
had been filed away in the cata-
logue of books that were worth a
second reading. They were no
more then happy but fading
memories on this day.
I agreed to drive Larry to the
bookstore. On the way we talked.
"I heard that it's a collection
-of old published and unpublished
writings," Larry said. "Stuff
from the Whole Earth Catalogue,
interviews with Krassner . "
Something suddenly clicked a
solid sense of a n t i c i p a t i o n
began to melt. The book began to
sound like a schlock job; pos-
sibly perpetrated by the money
monguls of the, publishing busi-
ness in New York, or worse, by
Kesey himself. I shook the
thought from my head, but an
image of a slightly demented
Kesey arose and he squawked in
a maddened tone, "So they want
another book by Ken Kesey
huh?"
No, I didn't want a collection:
I wanted a novel, another great
work that would mainline a shot
of adrenalin into the tired blood
of contemporary fiction. He had
done it before. .
Kesey had looked at reality
through kaleidoscopic eyes. LSD
had not diverted his attention to
"another reality." Rather, he
interpreted the world from the
vantage of a slightly altered
state.
He looked into the minds of
Chief Broom and other mental

patients from the simulated psy-
chosis of Mescaline. lie saw a
universal current that ran be-
neath the lives of the hard work-
ing Stamper family ("Never
Give an inch") in the timber
lands of Oregon.
That was before Kesey the
writer became the celebrity. That
was before he and his band of
Merry Pranksters became mod-
ern folkheroes, before their es-
capades were glazed in neon by
the pansy piddled prose of Tom
New Journalism) Wolfe.
But this was acceptable. We
could blame the commercializa-
tion on Wolfe not Kesey. Besides
those were the days when we
were frustrated because we had
not tasted Owsleys mighty Blue
Cheer, and had missed the Grate-
ful Dead in the Avalon Ballroom
in San Francisco. Kesey had a
role beside his literary one; and
it was fun to go for a vicarious
ride with a bunch of short-cir-
cuited lunies. We could rational-
ize it all as we waited for a new
book to restore Kesey's name to
the anals of respectable fiction.
Unfortunately his new book
wasn't worth the wait. The es-
says have been seen before. The
stories have been told. The in-
terviews, including one with the
Ann Arbors Argus were boring
even when they w e r e first
printed.
Even the highlighted items; an
essay on the writing of Cuckoo's
Nest and a screenplay based on
Kesey's flight to Mexico are not
able to put life into this collec-
tion.

INII1' ll""* E1IBE I/Nl

I

CRICKET SMITH
five piece rock 'n roll band
SUNDAY NITE
HOURS 6-2

341 S. MAIN

ANN ARBOR

A moving experience in sound and light

SPECIAL! HOT CHOCOLATE

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(neiarWashfenaw) Ann Arbor

Everyone W

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GRAD
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Turkish .Arts & Gifts
3rd Annivesary Sale
OCT. 15-OCT. 22
SHEEP SKIN MAXI COATS-$150-Now $120
SHEEP SKIN CAR COATS-$125-Now $95
HANDMADE JEWELRY, PUZZLE RINGS & MEDALIONS
AI'JANDWVEN DRUGS.huHIIANS F: REDAL CIIOTASIA1TAPESTRY X

11

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