"Folks. This here is the story of the Loop Garoo Kid. A cowboy so bad he made a working posse of spells phone in sick. A bullwhacker so unfeeling he left the print of winged mice on hides of crawling women. A desperado so onery he made the Pope cry and the most powerful of cattlemen shed his head to the Executioner's swine."
And so begins the HooDoo Western by Ishmael Reed, author of Mumbo Jumbo and one of America's most innovative and celebrated writers. Reed demolishes white American history and folklore as well as Christian myth in this masterful satire of contemporary American life.
In addition to the black, satanic Loop Garoo Kid, Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down features Drag Gibson (a rich, slovenly cattleman), Mustache Sal (his nymphomaniac mail-order bride), Thomas Jefferson, and many others in a hilarious parody of the old western.
"All art must be for the end of liberating the masses. A landscape is only good when it shows the oppressor hanging from a tree."
― Ishmael Reed, Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down
Imagine an acid-trip dream that involves Loop Garoo Kid, a bad-ass black cowboy who is a master of Neohoodooism. Set this dream up as a classic Western, invert and twist it, add various funky characters:
1. Bo Schmo, a part-time autocrat monarchist and guru and his neo-socialist realist gang.
2. A touring circus troupe including a dancing bear, the Juggler, and Zozo the palm reader.
3. Chief Showcase, a paternalist Indian.
4. Drag Gibson, the ranch Boss.
5. Pope Innocent, God's fixer.
6. Mustache Sal, a nymphomaniac mail-order-bride.
And many, many more.
Imagine a story that seems like a mixture of Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, George Saunders, and Richard Brautigan. In the beginning of the book, Loop tells us:
“No one says a novel has to be one thing. It can be anything it wants to be, a vaudeville show, the six o’clock news, the mumblings of wild men saddled by demons.” Loop, the protagonist is up against the man, struggling against established religious, economic, and cultural oppressions.
The novel's prose riffs and rolls the narrative with some strange, obscene, smokey combination of Jazz and African-American folk magic. I kept hearing the words in my head as if sung by Sly Stone on peyote in the midst of a vision quest. This is a book that needs to be read it one sitting. It is not casual. It is funny, absurd, strange, twisted, obscene, messy, relevant, infinitely quotable, cheeky, irreverent, subversive, rollicking, and completely woke.
11 of 15 people found this review helpful
It's interesting to follow Reed's mind. His noggin is unique. Points given just for tuning in.
However...there is not much of a plot here and it was impossible and painful for me to read a Western with stereotypical elements juxtaposed with contemporary society--it seemed incongruous. I had no mental picture to accompany Reed's prose. That's a basic major fail.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful