Mumbo Jumbo is a novel about writing itself not only in the figurative sense of the postmodern, elf-reflexive text but also in a literal sense [It] is both a book about texts and a book of texts, a composite narrative of subtexts, pretexts, posttexts, and narratives within narratives. It is both a definition of afro American culture and its deflation.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Author of The Signifying Monkey
Mumbo Jumbo is Ishmael Reed's third novel and by many critics, it is considered as his best. The novel is about a large set of characters, and in the center there is a neo-hoodoo practicer, Papa LaBas. The book is in fact about the struggle between the Christian Ethics and Afro-American Aesthetics. The book's story is based on this main idea, and it was presented as the struggle over the "Jes' Grew" and the characters' pursuit for key book to it: "The Book of Thoth". As stated above by Gates, Mumbo Jumbo is a significant piece of art in the postmodern literature. With its style and themes, it carries all the important aspects of a postmodern book. If we are to understand why this book has an important place in the American literature we have to study this novel through these aspects: Its style, and more important, the all familiar themes which are taken up through a new vision successfully by Reed.
The first aspect that makes Mumbo Jumbo a postmodern novel is its style. First of all Mumbo Jumbo is an experimental novel that actually employs more textbook than novelistic conventions. It contains illustrations, footnotes, and a bibliography. In many pages you can find Reed jump from the main story to a radio reporter's voice and back to the conversation again and places an anagram of the word SATAN in the page:
S A T A N
A D A M A
T A B A T
A M A D A
N A T A S (Reed, 33)
Even a poem is placed among the pages of the novel (Reed, 158-159). No one can say that Mumbo Jumbo carries the characteristics of a... [continues]
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