Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Reckless Eyeballing fits into a personal literary tradition established by Reed through the publication of other satiric novels such as The Free-Lance Pallbearers (1967), Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down (1969), Mumbo Jumbo (1972), and The Last Days of Louisiana Red (1974). These novels suggest that Reed is not afraid to tackle dangerous social subjects or critique prevalent or accepted stereotypes. In his novels, Reed builds a landscape that blends fantasy with reality, ignoring conventional characterizations and distorting linear time frames. He blends popular culture figures and genre conventions into his fiction, so that his novels evoke archetypal images without conforming to any specific formula. His satire ranges from subtle parody to outright buffoonery while lampooning varied concepts of race, class, and gender. His exaggerated characters have often proven difficult for critics to handle. In particular, feminist critics have questioned his portrayal of women. Reed’s reworking of African American cultural identity, stressing Afrocentric origins, black vernacular creativity, and black survival abilities, puts him at the forefront of African American postmodernism. Nominated for two National Book Awards, Reed is a prolific and important African American writer who has published novels, poems, plays, and essays. His critical stature continues to grow as he explores the varied world of African American and American cultures with a unique voice.