I’ve really been chomping at the bit to read some novels by Ishmael Reed. I was waiting until I had finished his book of poetry, Why The Black Hole Sings The Blues: Poems, 2007-2020. Yesterday I finished the book of poetry. I decided to randomly choose a novel by him and grabbed the first one on my to-be-read shelf.
I have read Japanese by Spring before, but I don’t remember it. I suspect I am getting more out of it in the second read. Most of the references Reed makes to history and Jazz I easily recognize now. I’m not so sure about whenever I read it before.
The most startling thing so far is the references to Jack London’s completely perverted, 1910 story, “The Unparalleled Invasion.”
The plot to this story is so outrageous that I had to double check to make sure Reed hadn’t invented it. London begins his tale in the then future of 1922. After breaking away from Japan and conquering some of its territories, China spends the next fifty years experiencing a population explosion that overwhelms all European colonies in Asia. “The United States and the other Western powers launch a biological warfare campaign against China, resulting in the total destruction of China’s population.” (from the Wikipedia article linked below)
In the Reed novel, he invents a fictitious Jack London College in Oakland, California, for the setting of this romp. Basically, it describes a college in the nineties that has completely capitulated to the demands of more non-Western centered curriculum. There are many moving parts including the main character, Chappie Puttbutt, who is sort of a Clarence Thomas of academia (Thomas and many others are described in acidic and hilarious ways).
The winds change when the College is purchased by Japanese investors who not only give Puttbutt his much desired tenured, they actually retain him to axe all the feminists profs, African American profs, and others.
I am finding it laugh-out-loud funny.
Although, the Jack London College is fictitious. There is a Jack London Square in Oakland.
Japanese by Spring is also the name of a made-up text that teaches Japanese.
Time to go read Reed some more.