Sunday, July 8, 1pm-4pm
San Francisco Public Library’s Koret Auditorium
(This event is free and open to the public)
Before Columbus Foundation Presents
In Association with The African-American Center of The San Francisco Public Library and Justin Desmangles
Ishmael Reed discussing his most recent novel, Conjugating Hindi, new from Dalkey Archive Press.
Program begins with an in-depth conversation featuring special guests Carla Blank and Melanie Masterton Sherazi on the subject of William Demby’s posthumous work, King Comus, which Ms. Sherazi edited and reassembled, published for the first time last year by Ishmael Reed Publishing Company.
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On Conjugating Hindi:
Chappie Puttbutt has moved to North Oakland, still a mixed neighborhood in a rapidly gentrifying city. In need of money and a boost in profile, he agrees to a series of public debates with the right-wing Indian intellectual Shashi Parmar on the topic, ‘Was Slavery All That Bad’? Content to be paid to play the foil, Chappie’s new job doesn’t last long however. An overseas plane crash ignites political tensions between the US and India, and when a hysterical Congress passes a Fugitive Indian Law soon afterward, Shashi looks to Chappie for refuge.
“One of the most inventive and prolific of contemporary American writers . . . Reed’s prose style resembles the youthful Ali’s ring style. It is unorthodox, brash, yet controlled.” (New York Times)
“His own groundbreaking literary output over six decades, in multiple languages and every form―essays, fiction, poetry, film, even editorial cartoons―has infected a generation of artists.” (The Paris Review)
“Reed’s gift is for the outrageous, for giving vivid expression to cultural controversies very much in the air . . . He is one of the most underrated writers in America. Certainly no other contemporary black writer, male or female, has used the language and beliefs of folk culture so imaginatively, and few have been so stinging about the absurdity of American racism.” (New York Review of Books)
On King Comus:
“KING COMUS: REDISCOVERED NOVEL OF THE YEAR” Jeff Biggers writes in the Huffington Post
“Once every decade or so, a classic novel is rediscovered from the heap pile of obscurity, casting new light on an author who has been grievously overlooked, undervalued or simply unpublished.
“Ambitious in scope, epic in its timebend narratives that range from the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to World War II in Italy to modern-day neo-slave narratives and black speculative fiction, and absolutely dazzling in its comical clash between debauchery and redemption, William Demby’s posthumously published King Comus is such a novel for our generation.”
“….Demby’s reexamination of the cycles of history, its mythological antecedents, and his role in it, remained his identifiable literary mission—and our incredible joy as readers.”
“….TO THE LONG-STANDING NEED FOR CULTURAL PRODUCERS TO IMAGINE NEW AND BETTER FUTURES….WE CAN NOW ADD….THE RECENTLY REDISCOVERED WILLIAM DEMBY NOVEL KING COMUS.” writes Renee Hudson in the Los Angeles Review of Books
“While Demby is not as well known today as his friends Richard Wright and Ishmael Reed, the publication of King Comus will surely bring renewed interest to his work and his contribution to both neo-slave narratives and black speculative fiction. As Demby demonstrates, the neo-slave narrative is necessarily speculative since we cannot imagine the conditions of slavery as practiced in the US South. Rather than attempt a realist depiction of slavery in the 19th century, Demby offers a narrative that hinges on our inability to know history in any form. That said, he also suggests that we must continue to write it for ourselves because …. [as one character observes] we don’t belong to ourselves no more; we belong to a larger community with all the responsibilities that entails. “