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The-lines-of-tribe-shall-soon-dissolve Dept.



Top: display window, Skylight Books, 3.5.09
Bottom left: Ishmael Reed. Bottom right: Rodger Jacobs.


We cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve...Barack Obama, 1.20.09

Ishmael Reed is a noted and not particularly reverent voice in American letters. Rodger Jacobs is a noted and not particularly reverent voice in counterculture litchat circles.

At Pop Matters, a not perfectly reverent webzine that may sell more books than lots of print media book reviews, Rodger Jacobs mildly sideswiped Pow Wow, a new collection of work anthologized by Reed with Carla Blank. Jacobs generally liked the anthology, but Reed's bombastic forward not so much.

Reed didn't care much for Jacobs' appraisal, and responded with the kind of rant Jacobs found disappointing in the introduction.

He called Jacobs "a literary shock jock."

Jacobs responded without contrition. So Reed then sought out Jacobs' own blog, Carvers Dog. Here was where lines were really drawn.

Reed alleged that Jacobs was denying racial profiling. And he went on:
have you read noel ignatiev’s “how the irish became white?” did you know that the 19th century teutonic solution to the immigration and race problems was to “have an irishman kill a black man and get hanged for it? also for one being against white men as you say, i have more white men in my anthology than the average anthology has black hispanics asian and native americans and women.what does that make these anthologists. stop smoking! ireed
The dustup appears to have run its course. The e-trail Reed left behind was far from uncharacteristic; it was an honest representation of the public side of the man, where he has been known to let things fly. Here's a similar rant at an appearance Reed made in 2003 on behalf of his book, Blues City: A Walk in Oakland.
The one disappointment is that Reed was terrible in the question and answer session -- I don't think I heard him actually address a single question, instead rambling into some tangential polemic.
In this comment, you can hear Reed's rambling, but you can also hear on the other side of it the soft tyranny of academic expectations as well. The attendee expects university rhetoric, not street level bombast, but Reed knows his way around the neighborhood as well as the university, and mostly honors the former once engaged.

While Pow Wow may be the instant matter, in my opinion the book to read is Reed's Blues City: A Walk in Oakland. In that book you can hear about what the antiseptic of gentrification really does to urban life.

Blues City is an abundantly intriguing mashup, engagingly political and cultural alike. It is perhaps even a good primer for things to come, as Reed's (and Jerry Brown's) scrubbed-up Oakland will likely become a competing vision in the next race for Governor of California, alongside of Antonio's density-driven LA and Gavin's amusement park SF.
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