Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Harlem. District of New York City at the north end of New York City’s Manhattan Island. Harlem has long been known as a center of African American culture, but at the time in which the novel is set, most of New York’s African American residents are living to the south in Lower Manhattan. However, Harlem’s black population is steadily increasing and white residents are moving out. Meanwhile, the influx of newcomers to New York is creating a rich cultural mix, one of the most outstanding manifestations of which is music. Clustered between Harlem’s 125th and 135th Streets and between Lennox and Seventh Avenues are clubs in which New Orleans Dixieland music is evolving into jazz.

*New Orleans

*New Orleans. Louisiana’s largest city, in which the African musical heritage of the region’s former slaves has developed into what becomes known as Dixieland jazz, a uniquely American form based upon the melodic lines and tempos of African American funeral processions and parades. New Orleans is the principal setting of Mumbo Jumbo and an important venue throughout Ishmael Reed’s fiction, poetry, and essays. Reed is concerned with the African American tradition of the supernatural known as “HooDoo,” and New Orleans is its home. There, what appears to white people to be the devil’s work is in effect something else. There and elsewhere HooDoo steps aside a white, Anglo-Saxon, Christian tradition...

(The entire section is 447 words.)

Techniques / Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Mumbo Jumbo is an experimental, postmodern novel that actually employs more textbook than novelistic conventions. It contains...

(The entire section is 439 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Reed's writing style matured greatly between The Free-Lance Pallbearers (1967) and Mumbo Jumbo. Critical response generally...

(The entire section is 88 words.)


(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Byerman, Keith E. “Voodoo Aesthetics: History and Parody in the Novels of Ishmael Reed.” In Fingering the Jagged Grain: Tradition and Form in Recent Black Fiction. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985. Focuses on Reed’s use of parody and reworking of history. Analyzes six novels and traces the development of a new aesthetic of African American sensibility that Reed calls Neo-HooDoo art.

Carter, Steven R. “Ishmael Reed’s Neo-Hoodoo Detection.” In Dimensions of Detective Fiction, edited by Larry N. Landrum, Pat Browne, and Ray B. Browne. Bowling Green, Ohio: Popular Press, 1976. Reed’s parody of detective fiction leads readers from the mysteries within the text to the mysteries in life, to consider the culprits in history, to question the alleged truths of Western culture, and to discover distortions of reality in written history.

Cooke, Michael G. “Tragic and Ironic Denials of Intimacy: Jean Toomer, James Baldwin, and Ishmael Reed.” In Afro-American Literature in the Twentieth Century: The Achievement of Intimacy. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1984. Recognizes Mumbo Jumbo as a high-spirited satire but criticizes Reed for not developing the concept of the Jes Grew Text into something more positive for African Americans.

Fox, Robert Elliot. “Ishmael Reed: Gathering the...

(The entire section is 540 words.)