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Posts Tagged ‘Quincy Troupe’

A Badjohn in Harlem: An Afternoon with Earl Lovelace

April 11, 2012 | by

Readings take place in bookstores, bars, even laundromats, yet an old-fashioned home salon is a rare and special thing nowadays. In Harlem, especially, the living-room salon evokes a storied past of the 1920s Renaissance soirées of writers like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. When you step into the grand, rambling Graham Court apartment of poet Quincy Troupe and his wife, writer Margaret Porter Troupe, you are immediately transported to a vibrant, sun-drenched world of creativity. One room has been turned into a gallery of contemporary artwork inspired largely by the African diaspora (together the Troupes edit the NYU journal Black Renaissance Noire); a large sitting room, where a makeshift table/bar has been set up, is crowded floor to ceiling with books; while the living room, with rearranged sofas and twenty or so folding chairs, has been transformed into an intimate space for the day’s honored guest and audience. And all around, there are sweeping views across the Harlem rooftops and off into the hazy distance.

On a recent Sunday, the great Trinidadian author Earl Lovelace was in town to be feted at the Troupe’s Harlem Arts Salon. The house was packed and festive, and the wine was flowing. I remember first discovering Lovelace in the late eighties—and I still have my worn copies of The Wine of Astonishment and A Brief Conversion and Other Stories to prove it. These books were wonders in themselves: sleek, colorful paperbacks published by the beloved imprints Aventura’s Vintage Library of World Literature and the Heinemann Caribbean Writers series. Yes, Lovelace—his name, too, had its own special ring—evoked a whole world, a vision of Trinidad and the Caribbean that was bursting with life, with its own rhythm of dreams and vexed sorrows, its calypsonian sages and steel-pan virtuosos, its gurus and Garveyites and badjohns, or street-corner rebels. Lovelace was a revelation (as was his compatriot Sam Selvon, whose short story “My Girl and the City” still sends thrills through me), and over the years, I suppose, I’ve missed him without even realizing it. Read More »


Ishmael Reed on ‘Juice!’

September 13, 2011 | by

Ishmael Reed © Terence Byrnes.

Seventy-three-year-old Ishmael Reed has been a major figure in American letters for more than four decades. In April, Dalkey Archive published Juice!, Reed’s first novel in more than fifteen years. Juice! tells the story of a struggling African American cartoonist whose personal and professional life is disrupted by the media frenzy surrounding the O. J. Simpson murder trial. Earlier this summer, Reed, who is based in Oakland, California, responded to some of my questions about his latest work.

Juice! is your first novel since 1993. What inspired you to write another novel after all these years?

I began this one as soon as I heard about the murders. I was vacationing in Hawaii, and the murders ruined my vacation. The media went berserk over the murder of Nicole Simpson, the kind of ideal white woman—a Rhine maiden—one finds in Nazi art and propaganda, murdered allegedly by a black beast. It was a story that reached into the viscera of the American unconscious, recalling the old Confederate art of the black boogeyman as an incubus squatting on top of a sleeping, half-clad white woman. It was also an example of collective blame. All black men became O. J. The murders ignited a kind of hysteria.

Juice! does not have a conventional structure. The novel incorporates courtroom documents, television transcripts, and pieces of visual art. It also plays around quite a bit with time. What gave rise to the novel’s peculiar shape?

I try to experiment. Writing a conventional novel would be boring for me. In this novel, I added cartoons. Cartoons were probably my introduction to storytelling as a child, because on Sundays we got The Chattanooga Times, and I’d read the funnies. A publisher wanted to publish Juice! but decided that the cartoons weren’t up to par. So, at the age of seventy, I studied at the Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco, and the cartoons improved so much that I now do political cartoons for The San Francisco Chronicle’s blog, City Brights.Read More »