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Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down (Ishmael Reed)

March 10, 2011

Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down has been sitting on my bookshelf for just about a year now. I picked it up in a used bookstore in Austin, Texas, last March and haven’t had the chance to read it…until last night. In a bout of insomnia, I started the book around 10pm and finished it around 1am. The only other novel I’ve read that was penned by Ishmael Reed is Mumbo Jumbo, and I absolutely loved it. I didn’t exactly know what to expect with this slightly earlier work, but I sure enjoyed it!

This novel is Reed’s own unique spin on the good ol’ fashioned American western…and it’s got all the bite and hoodoo of Reed’s other works thrown into the mix. Between the apparently undead greedy rancher, Drag Gibson; the heroic and tricky cowboy hero, the Loop Garoo Kid; and the beaten down and defeated Pope himself, Reed’s was immensely entertaining. It was also just as scathing in its critique on American culture, and offered up a nice historical counter-narrative that effectively illustrates how all of Western religion and culture was stolen from Africa.

Have I mentioned how much I love Reed? Like Gerald Vizenor (Native American [Anishinaabe] author of The Heirs of Columbus and Griever: An American Monkey King in China, to name just two of his works), Ishmael Reed presents a new take on an old (and really quite flawed) vision of the Wild West. While the novel is a little hard to read at first, it doesn’t take long to get right into it, and once that happens, don’t expect to put the book down until you’ve turned its last page.

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