JAPANESE BY SPRING by Ishmael Reed

JAPANESE BY SPRING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Don't let the bucolic-sounding title mislead: this is Reed (The Terrible Threes, 1989, etc.) at his general level of pugnaciousness, exaggeration, cartoon, and troublemaking. The standard Reed novel, in other words: mischief, mess, and malice. Chappie Puttbutt is a black Oakland, California, college professor up for tenure in one of the three departments he teaches in: African-American Studies, English, and Humanities. He's a favorite of none, being at the moment an anti-affirmative-action spokesman, more appreciated by the MacNeil-Lehrer TV show and editorial pages across the land. So when Jack London College, where he teaches, is taken over by the Japanese, he is chosen to be in charge of the college's own program of ethnic cleansing. Chappie will be subject to further changes of heart, but that's what Reed's fiction revels in: metamorphoses of received opinion. Japanese infiltration of America isn't the only hot topic brawled with here; Anita Hill and Catherine MacKinnon are roughly handled, as are academic politics, Colin Powell, neoconservatives like Dinesh D'Souza (here called ``D'Gun ga Dinza''), even John Milton! Reed loves conspiracy theories, as the denouement of this loopy book unsurprisingly demonstrates (maybe only Richard Condon among American novelists loves them as much). In fact, Reed the writer is called upon to make an appearance and directly give advice to certain characters, defending multiculturalism not as some liberal good idea but as a necessary economic bulwark. There's not much novel here beyond the screed-element, but in his own inimitable way Reed is able to activate Zeitgeist-y opinions the way hardly anyone else does, or even tries to do.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-689-12072-9
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1992




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