Ishmael Reed, Flight to Canada

As I have noted more than once before, Ishmael Reed is likely my favorite living author and certainly my favorite living satiristFlight to Canada is a very good friend’s Reed book of choice.

This may very well be the Reed book with which to start.  Mumbo Jumbo certainly puts forward a broad critical-theoretical framework in a way that Flight to Canada doesn’t, but by Reed’s standards the fact that Flight to Canada feels, using a more conventional syntax that either Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down or Mumbo Jumbo, like a more conventional read, makes it a good way in.

Reed, as far as substance goes, sacrifices nothing.  Set during and immediately after the United States’ Civil war, the topic here is black resistance.  Correctly, Reed gives us no compliant Blacks in the narrative, but rather shows numerous different, active responses to slavery and racist violence.  There’s the titular escape, but also Uncle Robin’s staying close to Master Swille and ultimate reliance on ancestral gods/spirits to inherit his estate: certainly a victory.  Reed has a sure sense of what resistance is, but a broad notion of what it might be.  Famously, on p. 88 of my edition:

Each man to his own Canada.

Words to live by.

Briefly: Reed’s humor is entirely on display throughout the novel.  Frequently, I laughed out loud, and as far as raw, satirical humor goes, his only equal might be the Marx Brothers at their best.  Truly, he’s that funny.

I’m at a loss for further words and have already returned the book to the library.  Get the book an read it for yourself, and fill with gratitude.

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