Japanese by Spring

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

JAPANESE BY SPRING is the tale of Benjamin “Chappie” Puttbutt and his efforts to achieve some measure of financial and psychological security. Chappie Puttbutt is a black man determined to survive and prosper in a white man’s world. To this end, Puttbutt employs the most devious of measures to attain tenure at the mythical Jack London College. He intellectually embraces the most savage of racists and gives a new and deleterious definition to the phrase “politically correct.” Not surprisingly, he is viewed as a traitor by those of color, and scorned as a pitiable specimen of humanity by the very individuals he seeks to placate. Offered an opportunity to revenge himself upon his enemies, he is betrayed at the pinnacle of success and left to exist as a marginal individual.

The loose structure of JAPANESE BY SPRING permits Ishmael Reed to deliver himself of a caustic, albeit somewhat disorganized, commentary on everything from racism and multiculturalism to feminism and the Gulf War. Reed purportedly arranges his written work after the fashion of a jazz set. Thus, JAPANESE BY SPRING is anything but linear and is repeatedly at right angles to itself.

This is not a book for the unwary, nor is it to be recommended to anyone who rejects the hoary dictum concerning the degree of injury inflicted by words as opposed to sticks and stones. It is indeed possible to inflict deep and abiding wounds without recourse to inanimate objects. Reed’s...

(The entire section is 569 words.)