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Comment: This book has already been loved by someone else. It MIGHT have some wear and tear on the edges, have some markings in it, or be an ex-library book. Over-all it's still a good book at a great price! (if it is supposed to contain a CD or access code, that may be missing)
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Mumbo Jumbo Paperback – June 11, 1996

3.8 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

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

About the Author

Ishmael Reed grew up in working-class neighborhoods in Buffalo, New York. He attended Buffalo public schools and the University of Buffalo. As well as being a novelist, poet, and essayist, he is a songwriter, television producer, publisher, magazine editor, playwright, and founder of the Before Columbus Foundation and There City Cinema, both located in Northern California. He lives in Oakland, California. 
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st Scribner Paperback Fiction Ed edition (June 11, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684824779
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684824772
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By notaprofessional VINE VOICE on July 7, 2002
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.
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By A Customer on January 12, 2003
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.Read more ›
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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.
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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.
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