Reading Mumbo Jumbo Essay
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…
But don't you want to hear about my contributions to the County Seed packages, my descriptions of the bulbs and the germs?
That's enough. You've convinced me. (Reed, 76 )
All of Reed's voices exist in the direct dialogue with the voice of the narrator, which is also another one among them. As a result, his style confuses reader about who was who. These are the unmarked voices of Black Herman, PaPa LaBas, the Black Muslim Abdul Hamid, and the narrator:
What do you think this Jes Grew is up to?
It's up to its Text . . . . It must find its Speaking or strangle upon its own ineloquence.
I don't quite agree with it, in fact I think it's a lot of Bull.
Black Herman and PaPa LaBas direct their attention to the man standing against the wall. (Reed, 33-34)
The second and the more important and significant aspect that makes Mumbo Jumbo a postmodern novel is the themes and issues it is dealing with, more correctly, the way that these issues are taken on by Reed. As we have stated in the beginning Mumbo Jumbo is a struggle between the Christian Ethic and what Reed calls the Neo-HooDoo Aesthetic. The mediator for the struggle is a an "anti-plague" called "Jes Grew," a "disease" that forces its "victims" to dance and let their