Reading Mumbo Jumbo

3739 WordsMay 13, 200515 Pages
READING MUMBO JUMBO 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.…show more content…
Reed puts in new points of view onto these subjects. But before examining these issues we should better try to explain what "Jes' Grew" is and where the term comes from."Jes Grew," is the psychic epidemic of the 1920s which pursues its way from New Orleans to Chicago and from there to New York, is an "X" factor," as neo-hoodoo "detective" Papa LaBas calls it. Although Reed takes the term Jes' Grew from James Weldon Johnson (who wrote that "'the earliest Ragtime songs, like Topsy, 'jes' grew' ", he traces it as far back as an ancient Egyptian dance craze that reappears in New Orleans in the 1890s. Throughout the book the hoodoo, or better, the philosophy behind hoodoo is paid a lot of attention. This is significant, because in the postmodern aesthetics there is a turn to the hyper-realism. The practices that Papa La Bas carries out are related to magic and reading minds etc. The word Hoodoo came to America when the Voodoo of Haiti was imported into French Louisiana by planters and slaves that were escaping the Haitian revolution. When Voodoo was banned in New Orleans as "insurrectionary," it went underground. It became Hoodoo when it came out of New Orleans into the southern black community and it became the term for a set of African magical and religious practices that had been practiced among slaves. For Reed, this is an
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