Quotes by Ishmael Reed

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Multicultural is not a description of a category of American writing-it is a definition of all American writing. more...

We not only grew up on Be-Bop; Be-Bop raised us. For my generation, Be-Bop came on like a light bulb going flash behind the eyes.For us, it was not only an intellectual movement, but a way of life. We walked, dressed, and rapped Be-Bop. more...

I'm beginning to believe that Killer Illiteracy ought to rank near heart disease and cancer as one of the leading causes of deathamong Americans. What you don't know can indeed hurt you, and so those who can neither read nor write lead miserable lives, like Richard Wright's character, Bigger Thomas, born dead with no past or future. more...

The last publicized center of American writing was Manhattan. Its writers became known as the New York Intellectuals. With important connections to publishing, and universities, with access to the major book reviews, they were able to pose as the vanguard of American culture when they were so obsessed with the two Joes-McCarthy and Stalin-that they were to produce only two artists, Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, who left town. more...

If the British prose style is Churchillian, America is the tobacco auctioneer, the barker; Runyon, Lardner, W.W., the traveling salesman who can sell the world the Brooklyn Bridge every day, can put anything over on you and convince you that tomatoes grow at the South Pole. more...

I've always wondered why European politicians as a group seemed brighter than American politicians as a group. Maybe it's becausemany American politicians have the race issue to fall back on. They become lazy, suspicious of innovative ideas, and as a result American institutions atrophy. more...

Few white citizens are acquainted with blacks other than those projected by the media and the so-called educational system, whichis nothing more than a system of rewards and punishments based upon one's ability to pledge loyalty oaths to Anglo culture. The media and the "educational system" are the prime sources of racism in the United States. more...

American cultural institutions seem so bent on preserving the values of "Western civilization," the mythical "Whitetown," that welearn about one another's cultures the same way we learn about sex: in the streets. more...

The treatment of African and African American culture in our education was no different from their treatment in Tarzan movies. more...

Currently, U.S. society has been encouraged by its political and subsidized mass-media intelligentsia to view U.S. life as a continual "morning in America" paradise, where the only social problems occur in the inner cities. Psychologists call this denial. more...

statistic: the us bureau of missing persons reports that in 1968 over 100,000 people disappeared leaving no solid clues nor traceonly a space in the lives of their friends. more...

Regardless of the criticisms I receive from the left, the right and the middle, I think it's important to maintain a prolific writing jab, as long as my literary legs hold up. more...

My novels and poems are meant to be read aloud. That's why jazz musicians have been able to adapt my stuff. more...

During the last decades, films about the black experience have been produced, directed, and even scripted by white men. Some of them are excellent. But most reflect George Bernard Shaw's warning that 'if you do not tell your stories others will tell them for you and they will vulgarize and degrade you.' more...

During the last decades, films about the black experience have been produced, directed, and even scripted by white men. Some of them are excellent. But most reflect George Bernard Shaw's warning that 'if you do not tell your stories others will tell them for you and they will vulgarize and degrade you.' more...

I used to be a discipline problem, which caused me embarrassment until I realized that being a discipline problem in a racist society is sometimes an honor. more...

I finally had to go to the American Civil Liberties Union here in northern California to get my reply published to what I considered to be a hatchet job done by Stanley Crouch. more...

Ethnic life in the United States has become a sort of contest like baseball in which the blacks are always the Chicago Cubs. more...

Free enterprise is not a bad idea and has produced art. more...

That kind of thing happens to black people every day in this country, and they don't receive that kind of sentence he did, which was to go to prison on the weekends; I think he lectured there-an outside lecturer. more...

Writing poetry is the hard manual labor of the imagination. more...

I'm sure that you could go back and make a graph showing that all the killings of black males increased in times of economic difficulty. As a matter of fact, a black man was lynched last year. more...

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. more...

Tea Party members go to meetings on Medicare scooters. more...

Neo-Hoodoo is the 8 basic dances of 19th century New Orleans' Place Congo- the Calinda the Bamboula the Chacta the Babouille the Conjaille the Juba the Congo and the VooDoo- modernized into the Philly Dog, the Hully Gully, the Funky Chicken, the Popcorn, the Boogaloo and the dance of great American choreographer Buddy Bradley. more...

What was once dormant is now a Creeping Thing more...

One of the joys of reading is the ability to plug into the shared wisdom of mankind. more...

I try to do what has never been done before. more...

Writing has made me a better man. It has put me in contact with those fleeting moments which prove the existence. more...

The liberal wing of the feminist movement may have improved the lives of its middle- and upper-class constituency-indeed, 1992 was the Year of the White Middle Class Woman-but since the leadership of this faction of the feminist movement has singled out black men as the meta-enemy of women, these women represent one of the most serious threats to black male well-being since the Klan. more...

The Afrocentric exploration of the black past only scratches the surface. A full examination of the ancestry of those who are referred to in the newspapers as blacks and African Americans must include Europe and Native America. more...

The descendants of Holy Roman Empire monarchies became feeble-minded in the twentieth century, and after World War I had been done in by the democracies; some were kept on to entertain the tourists, like the one they have in England. more...

A black boxer's career is the perfect metaphor for the career of a black male. Every day is like being in the gym, sparring with impersonal opponents as one faces the rudeness and hostility that a black male must confront in the United States, where he is the object of both fear and fascination. more...

In the middle of the next century, when the literary establishment will reflect the multicultural makeup of this country and not be dominated by assimiliationists with similar tastes, from similar backgrounds, and of similar pretensions, Langston Hughes will be to the twentieth century what Walt Whitman was to the nineteenth. more...

We learn about one another's culture the same way we learn about sex: in the streets. more...

When I say Afro-American aesthetic, I'm not just talking about the United States, I'm talking about the Americas. People in the Latin countries read my books because they share the same international aesthetic that I'm into and have been into for a long time. And it's multicultural. more...

A lot of great art comes from the Afro-American male experience. Black men are geniuses, and many times their desperation, their position as being pariahs, leads them to great originality. more...

I consider racism to be a medical problem. Racists need serious medical and psychiatric help, because they are killing themselves and making others suffer along with them. more...

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. more...

I wasn't part of any sixties movement. I'm skeptical of movements. I'm part of the times that I'm in. more...

As for [Amiri] Baraka, he and I have disagreements. I mean, he becomes a demagogue when there's an audience. He's a nice guy in private. I mean I like the guy; he's a terrific writer. I've published two of his books. Baraka is one of these fundamentalists who is prone to idol worship. more...

I asked Joe Weixlmann why he would print a death threat like that in light of the fact that there are all of these armed ideological nuts wandering around loose. He said that for him, to "ice" someone means to reprimand them. more...

I was challenged to a fistfight by Margo Jefferson, the Pulitzer Prize winner, New York Times writer, who is part of a feminist clique at the Times, which believes that Black men are the principal threat to the women of the world. more...

I was on a panel with light skinned Blacks and a famous gay science fiction writer, who were complaining about how Blacks are against gays and light skinned Blacks and how intolerant Blacks are of different groups. My position was that Blacks were among the most humanistic, tolerant groups in the country and that across the street from my house in Oakland was one inhabited by White gays. more...

My work holds up the mirror to hypocrisy, which puts me in a tradition of American writing that reaches back to Nathaniel Hawthorne. more...

In Haitian mythology there is the figure Ghede, who in West Africa, is Iku, whose role is to show "each man his devil." He's represented by a figure wearing a top hat and smoking a cigar. That's my gig. more...

I don't know why people always compare me [ with Amiri Baraka] I was never part of the Black Arts Repertory Theater or the Black Arts Movement; people who claim that I was are wrong. I was downtown. I was living in Chelsea when they were operating in Harlem. more...

I was roommates with 2 of the guys who were influential in forming the Black Arts philosophy. I called them "goons," and [Amiri] Baraka took offense at that. But if you read his autobiography, the night we went up there for a fundraiser, he talks about how he wished that some violence would happen to us. How do you like Baraka as a gracious host? more...

Howard University holds something called "Heart's Day," an all day ceremony in which a writer is honored. I was the recipient of this honor. It's a wonderful ceremony that Eleanor Traylor chair of English at Howard University organizes for writers. Writers from around the country came to pay tribute to my work. It was very flattering. more...

The cultural wars of the sixties are over. I've reconciled with those who were my critics and opponents years ago. I was at odds with some those who were Black nationalists. Yet when feminists attempted to end my career and leave me as literary road kill, it was the Black nationalists who came to my rescue. more...

Do you think that Gwendolyn Brooks would give an award to someone who hated Black women, the lie that was circulated throughout New York and reached all the way down to Martinique where I was a guest Professor? The lie was circulated by people who don't read my books. more...

David Simon [the creator of The Wire] and I have a running controversy for years. It all stems from a telephone call I made to KPFA [Pacifica radio] when he was a guest there in the 90's on Chris Welche's show. He was going around the country with a Black kid from the Ghetto to promote something called The Corner - it was all about Blacks as degenerates selling drugs, etc. more...

[David] Mamet is another hypocrite. His idea of Black man is a pimp who abuses women, [Edmond], yet his play Oleanna [1994] ends with a White professor slapping an uppity feminist, at least the version I saw at San Francisco's ACT. more...

Joel Chandler Harris, who created a multi billion dollar industry, everything from his books, to Disney's "Song of the South" based upon the Uncle Remus stories. He got his start by transcribing the stories of slave Informants. I'm sure that none them got a dime. more...

Richard Price, who has made a fortune writing fake ghetto books, says he takes a cab into the ghetto, transcribes Black speech for a brief time and returns home. His fake ghetto books have bought him a townhouse in Gramercy Park and home on Staten Island. more...

Richard Price got a million dollar advance on one fake film book based on a paragraph outline and is able to seduce gullible White reviewers who know less about ghetto life than he. The New York Times has devoted more space to Price's tourist, ghetto writing than to any Black writer in history. more...

Constance L. Rice, co-director of the Los Angeles of the Advancement Project, told the Times that Seltzer might have been influenced by David Simon's fake ghetto series, "The Wire." It figures. Isn't this sexism? Isn't this a double standard? They're hard on this young woman for her fake ghetto book, yet praise these White guys for theirs. So there's a big market in downing Black men. more...

Phillip Roth uses his Black women characters to make anti intellectual remarks about Black history month, begun by a man who reached intellectual heights that Roth will never attain.Roth is a petty bigot and his ignorant remarks about black culture expose him as a buffoon to scholars the world over. more...

I guess when it comes to this privileged White racist feminist movement they respect someone who treats them rough: John Wayne. Frank Sinatra. Phillip Roth. more...

Two of the great leaders of the past - Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass - had White fathers - who deserted them. Now Margo Jefferson, who is hard on me and the fellas, wrote in the Times that she has nocturnal, erotic fantasies about John Wayne. What's up with these feminists? Do you see these double standards these feminists have? They dream about John Wayne, but they're hard on us [Black men]. more...

What I can't understand why Blacks can't achieve royal status when it comes to forms that they have largely created? I mean there's a White King of Rock n' Roll, there's a White King of Jazz, how come we can never achieve titles of royalty in these fields we are supposed to prevail in? They held a so called Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the other night, where White judges credit people who resemble them with the invention of Rock and Roll. I didn't even see Blacks in the audience. more...

There would be no Rock and Roll without Ike Turner, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, etc. Fake ghetto books and fake ghetto music. Elvis Presley, whom they idol, is merely a karaoke makeover of James Brown and Chuck Berry. more...

David Simon goes to the Jewish Weekly and said he's made all this money, but he can't enjoy it because of criticism by people like Ishmael Reed. more...

I'm not against White writers writing about Blacks as long as they are as objective as say James McPherson writing about an Irish American janitor in his brilliant short story "Gold Coast." more...

I use non-fiction work written by Whites in my research. It's indispensable. That wasn't the problem. I said that "The Wire" was a cliche! It's like my writing a series about Jewish life and casting all of the characters as inside traders. more...

How does the [New York] Times treat White pathology? They reported an epidemic of heroin addiction in the Philadelphia suburbs. which included emergency admissions and overdoses; these White people in the suburbs were doing heroin like it was going out of style. I counted the words: the article consisted of 200 words. "Heroin Epidemic" in the back section. Out here in California, the typical drug addict is a housewife or suburban White woman. more...

Another California study counted 30,000 substance abusers who are pregnant are White woman. So, The Wire paints the picture of drug addiction, drug dealing, and drug abuse as being a specifically a Black issue. more...

Hateful material travels the globe. A few years ago, CNN, America's Der Sturmer, ran a story about Black parents being so low down that they abandoned their children and the children had to eat rats. I was at a University in Wisconsin at the time and the mother of a student from South Africa called to see whether the story was true. She had seen it all the way over there. The story was untrue. The children lied. CNN never corrected the story. more...

I'm sure that a previous generation of Jews who published radical newspapers and journals would be critical of [David] Simon's projects. These were left wingers who suffered casualties in some of bloodiest strikes in American history. more...

I walked out on American Gangster: this evil piece of dreck. Defenders of this junk say that these movies give Black actors jobs. So did "Birth of a Nation." more...

I think Black intellectuals see too deeply. That's the problem. It's a cause of anxiety, because we see things differently. more...

My generation of writers has been prone to premature illness and death, especially the women. When Black male writers meet it's like a session of the American Diabetic Association. more...

Given all of the anti-Muslim propaganda that's being disseminated by The American Nazi media, you have to be careful. It can stress you out. more...

Americans are fickle. And what constitutes the enemy is always changing. Believe it or not, at one time Blacks were the favored model minority over Asian Americans. more...

I reached the age of 70, because I have cultivated an association of multicultural intellectuals who are informed and alert to whatever "tricknology" that's laid on us by the powers that be. These include White ethnic intellectuals- people who know their roots- as well as Native American, Asian American, Hispanic and Black intellectuals. These are thirty, forty-year associations with some of the best minds around. Minds that are ignored by the media. more...

In Crash, you've got a pathological cop who at the end justifies police brutality. He tells the naive, young cop that you're going to end up the same as him. He's the most sympathetic character in the movie. So, the naive cop ends up murdering this Black kid and tries to cover up the evidence. It sort of justifies police brutality and the planting of evidence which is what happened in the O.J. [Simpson] case. more...

The plays raise issues that are ignored in other forums. more...

I have Black guys who tell me they put my books on their bed stands to read at night like something for guidance or information. That really pleases me a lot. I think my work has changed some things. It's changed me. more...

Whites have been the most subsidized group in the history of the United States and maybe the history of the world, while Blacks were enslaved and were the assets of Whites. more...

Native Americans were driven off their land. Lincoln even took part in the Black Hawk campaign against the Native Americans in Illinois. While they were being exterminated and driven off their land, Whites were collecting assets. more...

I get most my information about what's happening in the United States from reports and studies, which are often in conflict with what you read on the editorial pages, or handouts from right wing institutions like the American Enterprise Institute. more...

For generations comedians have made jokes about Scots-Irish in the South inter-breeding. "I am my own grandpa" and all that stuff; you know, because they all were marrying their first cousins. more...

I think I have a pugnacious style. My style is not pretty. I don't use words like "amber" or "opaque." more...

My stuff is direct. Critics have compared my writing style with boxing all the way back to 1978 when my first book of essays appeared: it was compared to Muhammad Ali's style. more...

As a writer, you explore all kinds of different emotions. more...

I have T.V. on all the time when I'm writing. I have music on. I'm engaged with the world. more...

I think there are fundamentalists all over the world. I think all religions have fundamentalists who have different interpretations of scriptures that are very vague. more...

Unfortunately, in the world today, we have dogmatic people entering into politics. I don't think the two mix. more...


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