Crossing Western space, or the HooDoo detective on the boundary in Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo.
Ironically, the text Jes Grew seeks has come to America in the hands of an Atonist, Hinckle Von Vampton, or H.V.V.--a caricature of Harlem Renaissance patron Carl Van Vechten--who decides to send "it out as a chain book" to "14 J.G.C. individuals scattered throughout Harlem" (69). Unknown to H.V.V., one of the 14 J.G.C.s collects and gives the anthology to the black Muslim Egyptologist Abdul Hamid to translate. Anticipating the completion of Abdul's work, Jes Grew is on its way to New York, where it will "cohabit" with its text-unless the Atonists get to the Text first; as the Atonists see it, the only way to stop J.G. is to destroy the Text that it seeks. Consequently, H.V.V. and his partner Hubert Safecracker Gould pay a visit to Abdul, demanding he surrender the Text, and when Abdul refuses, they murder him. As fate, or convention, would have it, LaBas discovers the body along with a clue, a cryptic note from Abdul. LaBas has "the nagging suspicion...[the note] has something to do with the missing antholo gy" (131). It reads: "Stringy lumpy; Bales dancing / Beneath this center / Lies the Bird" (98). Clue in hand, LaBas, thus, begins his classic search for both the murderers as well as the location of the missing text.
But while Mumbo Jumbo has all the makings, Reed's novel is no conventional piece of detective fiction. It is, rather, a metaphysical detective story which evokes the "impulse to 'detect' ... in order to violently frustrate it" (Spanos 171). Nor is Reed's detective a conventional sleuth. (2) Unlike his literary forerunners, who relied on ratiocination and science, LaBas is "a jack-legged detective of the metaphysical" (212), "a private eye practicing. . . NeoHooDoo therapy" (211). In an obvious transgression of the Western detective genre, LaBas does not depend solely on scientific reason or concrete evidence to explain away mystery; to the contrary, he preaches turning "to mystery, to wonderment," or in the Voodoo tradition, to the loas. (3) LaBas's very name, in fact, is taken from the African deity Legba and his Haitian incarnation PaPa Legba, a trickster figure who mediates between the spiritual and material worlds. (4) Moreover, Reed's novel never offers a solution in the traditional sense. Although we do learn who the guilty parties are, this knowledge does not have the cumulative effect it does in a classic work of detection, in which the solution repairs the social fabric, for more threatening forces than an isolated murderer are pressing in on Western culture.
In considering Reed's appropriation of the detective genre, we need to recognize that the classic detective novel does more than merely solve the "affront to reason" that emerges within its pages; it also functions as a site of ideological containment, reinscribing Western science's belief in our ability to solve our world. As previous Reed criticism has noted, it is the detective's, and by extension Western science's, adherence to ratiocination that Reed wishes to call into question. (5) But what has not been mentioned with regard to Mumbo Jumbo is its interrogation of the way in which the detective novel as well as Western metaphysics more generally has imagined and produced social space to accommodate a positivist world view. I intend to show how Reed's novel questions and re-envisions Western conceptions of space, conceptions the detective figure has both guarded and perpetuated.
We should keep in mind here Foucault's suggestion that "space is fundamental in any exercise of power" (252; my emphasis), meaning spatial configurations participate in or are mutually constitutive of other cultural forms: aesthetic, political, and economic. Furthermore, space is mutually constitutive of individual subjectivity, including racial identity. As Henri Lefebvre contends, "All 'subjects' are situated in a space in which they must either recognize themselves or lose themselves" (35); that is, becoming a subject involves accepting "a role and a function," which "implies a location, a place in society, a position" (182-83).
It has for some time now been recognized that, as a genre, detective fiction is inherently preoccupied with both its own textual space-at the close of which all mystery must be explained away--as well as the space(s) its characters confront and inhabit, which as a fundamental rule must be strictly limited. (5) The murder generally occurs within an isolated or sealed environment--a hotel, a train, or even a locked room--which both makes it possible for its detective, and its reader, to narrow the number of potential suspects in order to solve the crime and also accomplishes another, ideological purpose in that such strict bounding suggests that social space can be rationally ordered and contained. Interestingly, a common device employed by the detective novel involves making space first appear decidedly irrational. I am speaking here of the classic locked-room mystery, in which the detective must explain or repair a breach to what was assumed to be a closed system. Ultimately, the success of the detective in a locked-room mystery is predicated on his ability to reestablish spatial parameters that adhere to the tenets of Western science; that is, by the close of the story the irrational space of the ruptured environment must appear rational once again. It is also worth noting that the classic detective has served a further ideological function by maintaining the separation of ghetto, or criminal space, and bourgeois space. (6) As in the case of such master sleuths as Holmes, the detective possesses the rare ability to traverse both worlds, with the sole purpose of protecting the latter-the decriminalized, sanitized space of the middle class.
The detective story's attention to space reflects a larger preoccupation with spatial matters on the part of the Enlightenment-based cultural Logic out of which the detective story was born. As David Harvey argues, along with the Enlightenment consciousness's impulse to solve, "the conquest and rational ordering of space" were "an integral part of the modernizing project," which created a "new organization of space dedicated to the techniques of social control, surveillance, and repression of the self and the world of desire" (249, 213). These are, of course, the very "techniques" employed by the detective in his efforts to maintain the social fabric, meaning the detective both relies upon what Deleuze and Guattari term the striating logic of Western science and also--particularly in his surveillance of the city--perpetuates that logic by rationally ordering the spaces he observes. In light of Lefebvre's comments regarding the link between space and subjectivity, the classic detective can, in fact, be seen as the spatialized subject par excellence in that his primary function is to restore order, to put every thing and every one back in its ideologically designated place or space.
Again, though, Mumbo Jumbo is no conventional work of detection, but a metaphysical detective novel that defies Western logic and refuses closure. Furthermore, Reed's novel not only exhibits all the traits of a metaphysical detective novel, but as Helen Lock suggests, it also belongs to what she defines as "Afrocentric" detective fiction. By "Afrocentric" Lock means those works that "derive from and incorporate... 'African culture and behaviour.'" She clarifies that it "is not that the 'American' in African-American is being rejected but that the 'African' is being revitalized, and a new and energetic dialectic re-established between the two" (ix). With its inclusion of African tales and Voodoo ceremonies, Reed's novel certainly participates in the "revitalization" of African heritage. But as Lock's comments would indicate, Reed's novel does not simply replace the Western detective story with an Afrocentric version; rather, Mumbo Jumbo concentrates on the space in-between, or the cultural boundary between Afr ican--or other non-Western cultures--and Euro-American "civilization." This explains why Reed chooses as his detective LaBas (Legba), a mediating figure who presides over the crossroads, for the space he wishes to interrogate is that of the cultural crossroads. As we will see, however, while Reed places the two cultures in opposition, his work is not so much interested in overturning binary hierarchies as it is in interrogating and making use, artistic or otherwise, of the ways in which these cultures and their forms--including the spaces they produce--communicate, mix, clash, or disrupt one another.
This attention to cultural mixing is crucial to Reed's definition of the Neo-Hoodoo aesthetic. He explains, "Voodoo is the perfect metaphor for the multicultural. Voodoo comes out of the fact that all these different tribes and cultures were brought from Africa and Haiti. All of their mythologies, knowledges, and herbal medicines, their folkiores, jelled. It's an amalgamation like this country" (Shrovetide 23233). Mumbo Jumbo itself reflects this multicultural amalgamation by combining a variety of literary styles--from African oral tales to the comic book--as well as a variety of cultural and textual influences: history, film, jazz, Voodoo ceremonies, etc. (7) It is this "amalgamation" that Reed's novel brings into focus, an amalgamation of cultural logic and forms which, pertinent to the detective genre's representation of space, includes the intermingling of differing, culturally inflected spatial perceptions and constructions. Mumbo Jumbo not only undermines the Western belief in a rationally ordered spac e, but ultimately indicates that the meeting points between what are traditionally seen as opposing versions of space deserve special attention because out of such amalgamations comes the potential birth of new spatial forms, new combinations that in their very production upset the spatial order of the West; that is, the spatial logic upon which the detective relies.
Interrogating the Detective
Before further discussing the ways in which Reed's fiction works to reconfigure Western space, we first need to establish more specifically how Mumbo Jumbo undermines the ideology of detection, or the Enlightenment consciousness that underlies the production of Western space. Unlike most metaphysical detective stories, in which we often are not even certain if a crime has been committed, PaPa LaBas does appear successful as a detective in that he actually discovers the identity of the murderers, and even thinks he has located Jes Grew's Text, all of which he reveals at a party held at the Villa Lewaro, fittingly, a country-house reminiscent of those in Agatha Christie mysteries. (8) But while LaB as's explication of the murder mirrors that of Poirot, it hardly reflects Poirot's ability to close the book on all mystery. With black artists and intellectuals as well as wealthy white patrons and, of course, the murderers themselves in attendance, LaBas and his fellow "jacklegged detective" Black Herman crash the party and confront the guilty parties, but before LaBas can apprehend the two men, "Hank Rollings the Guianese art critic" insists, "We won't yield these gentlemen until you explain rationally and soberly what they are guilty of" (160). But while LaBas agrees to explain, what he actually provides is far from the typical, tidy summary of how the clues lead to and incriminate the murderers. Rather, LaBas begins his summation, "Well if you must know, it all began 1000s of years ago in Egypt" (160), and proceeds to provide a history of Jes Grew that takes so long to convey-it is some thirty pages before we get back to the question of H.V.V.'s and Gould's guilt-that once absorbed by this "subtext" the reader can easily forget the "present" scene, the Villa Lewaro, as well as the query to which the partygoers are awaiting an answer. And the length of LaBas's narrative is not the only problem it presents; it is also full of anachronisms, and at times it appears that another voice supplants that of LaBas, which might be attributed to Reed himself but can also be thought of as the mediating voice of a loa. At another point in the novel LaBas believes he is listening to Haitian emissary Benoit Battraville speaking on the history of The Work, but as Battraville explains to LaBas, "You actually have been talking to a seminar. ... Agwe God of the Sea took over when I found it difficult to explain things" (138). Unlike the classic detective who has the definitive last word on the matter, LaBas offers an explanation of the crime that is actually the product of a supernatural, collaborative effort, a fact that is obviously disruptive to the illusion of the detective's authority.
Despite the hyper-prolonged suspense, LaBas eventually gets around to naming H.V.V. and Gould as Abdul's murderers. The problem, however, is that LaBas has yet to show proof of the Text's existence, let alone its transmission, and, as the art critic hastens to note, without the book, there is no "empirical evidence" (195), at least not from an Atonist perspective, of either LaBas's version of history or his conclusions regarding Abdul's murder. When called on to produce the book, which LaBas believes he has recovered from "beneath the center of the Cotton Club's dance floor" (190), the detective learns that what he has found is only a box, which may at one time have housed the missing text but now turns out to be "empty!!" (196). Abdul has actually burned the anthology, and "Jes Grew is dissolved" (195), at least temporarily. It would seem, then, that the Atonists have won, but this is not exactly the case, for they have no more understanding of Jes Grew than they did during its earlier outbreaks. Jes Grew re mains a mystery and, therefore, a threat, even if temporarily a dormant one. That is to say, at the very moment we expect closure, the case (or box) literally remains open, empty at the center.
The fact that LaBas and Herman do get their men would normally indicate closure, but here it does not help much, in part because, as far as the reader is concerned, there is no mystery surrounding the identity of the guilty parties in the first place. Moreover, LaBas succeeds in bringing the murderers to justice not because of his ability to convince what might loosely be thought of as a jury of their peers of their guilt, but because at the very moment LaBas's explanation is being called into question, the party is invaded by a group of women and children who accuse H.V.V. and Gould of yet another crime--stealing black culture from school children--meaning the detectives never do satisfy the Western need for empirical evidence. Of course, this matters little to LaBas and Herman, who make it clear that they intended to see the murderers receive justice with or without the blessing of those who adhere to the Western notion of "proof." As LaBas explains to his captives, "We're jacklegged detectives and don't ha ve a license from New York authorities, but we do have jurisdiction in Haiti though. We are delivering you to Other Authorities" (197; my emphasis). Literally, LaBas means that they intend to deliver the guilty men to Battraville, who will take them on "a little excursion" to Haiti, but we can also read LaBas's appeal to "Other Authorities" as a refusal of the Western notion of proof and faith in concrete evidence. Instead of adhering to white America's sense of justice, LaB as looks outside the parameters, or the jurisdiction, of the Atonist mind to "Other Authorities," and in the process calls into question the entire notion of Atonism (the one way) as well as the idea of the master detective (the sole authority).
Furthermore, while the classic detective's goal is to repair the social order, a white middle-class order, which has been disrupted by a crime, LaBas is actually out to undermine that order, to infiltrate the Atonist, or single-minded, tendencies of white America with an alien cultural form. According to LaBas, the real plague is Atonism itself, as Reed's description of the headquarters of the Wallflower Order suggests: "You have nothing real up here. Everything is polyurethane, Polystyrene, Lucite, Plexiglas, acrylate, Mylar, Teflon, phenolic, polycarbonate.... The aesthetic is thin flat turgid dull grey bland like a yawn. Neat. Clean, accurate, and precise but 1 big Yawn." Inside this physical and ideological structure, "Plastic will prevail over flesh and bones. Death will have taken over" (62). Ironically, the same neat, clean social order that the classic detective protects here leads to death, the very thing the detective is to circumvent. It is no wonder, then, that LaBas and Herman appeal to "Other Au thorities."
The Afrocentric Detective
As I noted, like his detective, Reed also looks outside the parameters of the West to other cultural models, including alternate models for the detective story. According to Lock, while the Oedipus tale underpins the Western tradition of detective fiction, there is another, "Afrocentric" tradition of detection whose model can be found in the "nonWestern narrative ... of the Egyptian god/man Osiris" (27), the very tale LaBas includes in his history of the Text. While there are many version--a traditionally oral tale, it has no one chronicler--the basic story goes that Osiris, under whose rule Egypt prospers, is deceived by his jealous brother Set into entering a coffin; in Reed's version Osiris is actually buried as a test of his divine powers and oneness with nature. Once Osiris is inside, Set and his co-conspirators seal the coffin, suffocating Osiris, and then later chop his body into fourteen parts (the same number of parts into which H.V.V. divides the anthology) which they throw into the Nile. However, t hrough the collective effort of Osiris's wife Isis and their son Horns--who gather more than clues; they actually gather the parts of the victim's body--and the god Thoth, who knows the "secret 'words of power,'" Osiris is resurrected and elevated to the level of godhead as a "symbol of the cycle of the life force, of creation and regeneration" (Lock 27-28).
As Lock suggests, while in the Oedipus model the objective is to "reconstruct" the "past in order to find the truth about the crime"--a task accomplished by a lone detective/authority--in the Osiris model "the reconstruction is of the victim himself, through a communal effort" (viii). The "detectives" literally reconstruct the victim, meaning "it is the crime which is nullified rather than the mystery. The mystery itself--how death is transformed into life"--remains a mystery (Lock 34), just as Jes Grew and its text remain a mystery. And just as the purpose of the Osiris story "is not to reveal the circumstances of the crime, which are common knowledge, but to explore the means of undoing the crime" (Lock viii), Reed's detective story does not focus on the whodunit--we know from the start who killed Abdul--but rather takes aim at the history of racial oppression, exploring the possibility of "undoing" this crime and revitalizing those who have suffered.
"Time is a pendulum"
Of course, this tradition of revitalization and regeneration conflicts sharply with a number of suppositions of Western detective fiction, including its temporal suppositions. In its classic form the detective novel requires a concept of time/history in which past events can be frozen in order for the detective to reconstruct those events into a teleologically driven narrative thread leading from a mystery-laden crime to a resolution. In Reed's version of the detective story, however, at the moment when LaBas ought to petrify the past by narrating or textualizing it, he actually makes the past come alive through narration by revising history to include both the present and future (relative to the 1920s). In LaBas's history the past is not re-constructed so as to stabilize it in the hope of locating its one "Truth"; rather, it is re-constructed in the sense that it is made part of the present. History, Reed suggests, need not be locked away within the rigid determination, but rather, like Osiris, can be resurr ected through infinite, communal versions. Mumbo Jumbo further disrupts the temporal confines of the detective story by closing not with the incarceration of Von Vampton and Gould, but rather with an appended "Epilogue" that flashes forward to LaBas lecturing on a college campus in the early 1970s on the history of Jes Grew (he continues to keep the past present). This final scene presents an obvious problem from the Western standpoint in that PaPa LaBas, described as a middle-aged man in the 1920s, appears not to have aged. To further complicate matters, Reed closes his novel by in effect reversing the chronology of the narrative, which begins in the '20s and ends some fifty years later, by summarizing LaBas's history in reverse, starting with his activities during the '60s and counting backward to the '20s, which the novel claims "were back again." In short, "Time is a pendulum. Not a river. More akin to what goes around comes around" (218). Such temporal circularity undermines both the logic of the detecti ve story as well as the entire Western notion of time and history, upon which the Atonist claim to "Truth" relies.
The Missing Text at the Center
By evoking the Osirian model and its resistance to rigidity and stagnation, Mumbo Jumbo not only questions the temporal and epistemological logic of the classic detective story but also mounts a not-so-subtle attack on the Western view of textuality. As far back as Oedipus, the Western detective has succeeded in large part because of his ability to locate missing texts as well as to decipher cryptic texts by providing the authoritative interpretation. In Mumbo Jumbo, however, the Text remains not only missing but unreadable as well. The absent Text does more than question LaBas's ability as a reader; as LaBas's history of the Book of Thoth suggests, the Text's absence questions the entire notion of textuality held by the West. According to LaBas, the Book comes into being when, following multiple Jes Grew "outbreaks" throughout Egypt, Thoth goes to Osiris and suggests that "if Osiris would execute these dance steps" for him "he would illustrate them." Importantly, Thoth's intention is not to restrict Jes Grew 's future forms; rather, he envisions a "Book of Litanies to which people... could add their own variations" (164). As Lock recognizes, "Thoth's book uses the inscribed image illustratively rather than deterministically. It is also clear that the Book is to be regarded as an indeterminate process rather than a determinate product" (56-57). The indeterminate nature of the Book makes little sense to the Atonists, who demand definitive interpretations. Thus, while the Atonists recognize that Jes Grew cannot be contained through force, they still assume that it can be defined by its text, locked into its Logos.
LaBas's history of the Book of Thoth actually includes an anecdotal warning against such a misreading. In his version of the story of Moses, LaBas tells of Moses's quest for the Text as a means of gaining power in Egypt. Upon visiting the temple of Osiris and Isis in Koptos, Moses actually does gain access to the Text, or a version of it, and leaves feeling that he has "gotten it all down. All down. Had it down pat" (182). However, when Moses later performs the "words of the Book of Thoth" for the people of Egypt, instead of bringing life to the crowd or inspiring the Egyptian masses to worship him, the songs actually cause their ears to bleed. The work, which previously sparked life, in this instance turns destructive. This results not only because Moses misuses the Text for his own, power-hungry ends, but equally because Moses has mistakenly assumed that such a text can be gotten "down pat" in the first place. He approaches the Text as if there exists but one determinate reading, or signification. By contra st, the Neo-Hoodoo perspective views the Book as a work-in-progress, like the Osiris tale, kept alive through variation and improvisation. Notably, the music of the Osirians who attend Moses's concert, though they "didn't know The Work that Moses knew," has the effect Moses seeks: It causes the people to break out in dance (185). The text itself, then, is not so crucial as the Atonists, or the detective, might presume, for Jes Grew seeks its expression, not its confinement in a definitive reading.
PaPa LaBas's own quest for the Text, in fact, places too much emphasis on the object itself and even seems counter-intuitive in that, according to the Atonists, to control the Text means the death of Jes Grew. LaBas's one flaw is that he is "a bit too rigid." Herman advises LaBas to "Improvise some. Open up, PaPa. Stretch on out with It" (130). Herman recognizes that Jes Grew does not aim to define its parameters through its text, but rather to stretch the limits of the Atonist culture it disrupts. Buddy Jackson, a Harlem gangster and Grand Master of the African Lodge #1, suggests that the Text itself, in its empirically evident form at least, is, in fact, of little significance. While Jackson and his men learned of H.V.V.'s possession of "a Black sacred Book" (194)--Jackson is the anonymous J.G.C. who collects and gives the anthology to Abdul--unlike those who ardently hunt the Text, they claim they "didn't care" about the Text. Jackson explains, "We had invented our own texts and slang" (194), meaning the T ext's absence does not close the book on signification, but actually opens a space in which Jes Grew can continue to signify indefinitely. Ironically, then, Jes Grew's "dissolution" allows it to live on, to remain unbound, a mystery open to future manifestations and interpretations.
Indeed, Jes Grew does not meet its final demise at the close of the Harlem Renaissance. As LaBas recognizes, "Jes Grew has no end and no beginning.... They will try to depress Jes Grew but it will only spring back and prosper. We will make our own future Text. A future generation of young artists will accomplish this" (204). Mumbo Jumbo itself can, in fact, be regarded as Reed's contribution to this "future Text" and a product of Jes Grew: "the manic in the artist who would rather do glossolalia than be 'neat clean and lucid'" (211). That is to say, against the backdrop of the "neat clean and lucid" detective novel and its adherence to rational explanation and definitive closure, Reed's open-ended, multi-textual, polyvocal "glossolalia" calls attention to its own un-solvability.
By asking us to resist the Western impulse definitively to solve mysteries, determine truths, and interpret texts, and to turn instead to mystery, Mumbo Jumbo appears to be an "anti-detective" novel in the truest sense. (9) That is, it might appear merely to reverse binaries: Dominant Western logic is suppressed in favor of now validated "alien" cultural forms. However, a closer examination of the novel suggests that this is not exactly what Reed is up to, for Mumbo Jumbo does not actually present the battle between mystery and science or rationality as a clear-cut opposition in which we must choose one or the other. Mumbo Jumbo does, of course, play off the notion that mystery and the Western detective, or scientific logic, act as opposing forces. (On one side we have those who, like the Guianese art critic, remain steadfast in their "devotion to empirical method" (215), and on the other we have those who like LaBas, according to the art critic, "always abandon reason and fall back upon Mumbo Jumbo" ). But while LaBas clearly wishes to introduce the world of mystery into the sterile order of the Atonist West, this does not mean that he gives up on reason altogether. In fact, LaBas depends heavily upon his ability to deduce and reason, to sort detective-style through a string of clues as well as to interpret Abdul's cryptic note. At one point, in fact, LaBas appears to be relying too heavily on his ability to reason. He is so preoccupied with attempting to piece together clues inside his own mind that he misses an important piece of information. Upon hearing Abdul's epigram, Herman tells LaBas of a "vision" he has received of a dancer at the center of a "night club floor" (131). Had LaBas listened to Herman's vision, to the metaphysical, he would better understand Abdul's clue. Laflas misses this because he is not in tune, so to speak; he is too busy playing detective. (10)
As Herman instructs, "Doing The Work is not like taking inventory" (130); it cannot be boiled down to tidy lists that account for all the missing pieces. Rather, the Hoodoo detective, as LaBas learns, needs to rely equally on the metaphysical or on his contact with the loas. What Reed's novel attacks then is not so much scientific logic as Atonism; that is, single-mindedness or the cultural restraints that allow for only one way of thinking or proceeding. Mumbo Jumbo does not disparage all science but rather a particular, narrow-minded devotion to what Deleuze and Guattari term the "imperial sciences" or "State science," which holds to "a set of strictly limited formulas" (362), as does the science of detection. Deleuze and Guattari distinguish this "State science" from "nomad science," which by definition is "difficult to classify"; as with Jes Grew, its "history is even difficult to follow" (361). Unlike State science, nomad science resists rigidly confined parameters, including textual parameters. We might say that, like the Hoodoo detective, the nomad scientist is willing to "Stretch on out with It," to bypass restrictive formulas in favor of "deformations, transmutations, passages to the limit" (Deleuze and Guattari 362). Significantly, what most interests Deleuze and Guattari are these "limits," or the "borderline phenomena in which nomad science exerts pressure on State science, and, conversely, State science appropriates and transforms the elements of nomad science" (362). Similarly, Reed's novel both focuses our attention on "borderline phenomena," the points of interaction between Western science or Western cultural logic and Afrocentric culture and tradition, and also suggests that the place where "The Work" is most alive is at the cultural crossroads. As the poet Nathan Brown, Reed's version of Countee Cullen, tells H.V.V., one can "use the advantages of both" cultures (117). Or as Battraville suggests, Americans have come upon the "new thang" because they have "synthesized the HooDoo of Voodoo," or h ave made use of borderline phenomena unique to the new world (152). Cultural synthesis is, in fact, the goal of Mumbo Jumbo itself: a textual crossroads that in its sheer poly-vocality as well as its multitextuality questions both the adherence to a singular truth espoused by the Western detective story as well as the more general, one-minded uni-vocalism of Atonism.
As Reed's description of the NeoHoodoo as a multi-cultural amalgamation like America itself would suggest, the borderline or crossroads is integral to the Voodoo tradition upon which he draws. Again, LaBas is the new world incarnation of the deity Legba, who mediates between realms. Fox explains further, "Legba, who reigns over the crossroads which is 'the meeting point of opposites,' is met there by his own opposite, Loko Carrefour, who represents youth, night, and the moon, just as Legba stands for age, day, and the sun." But while in the Western tradition, opposition mandates a choice which in effect ends the opposition--one side of any opposition must be suppressed so that the other, the "correct" side can rise to prominence--in the Voodoo tradition "opposition is associated with vitality. Unity created by removing conflicting or opposing elements is a hollow and meaningless unity" (52). This is the kind of unity that the Atonists establish and protect by militantly repressing all opposition to their cult ural logic or aesthetic. The very existence of a cultural crossroads threatens the Atonist way, the one way, and, therefore, must be eradicated. For the Neo-Hoodoo-ist, however, opposites are desirable in that they produce a "rupture of plane" (Fox 48) out of which new life arises, meaning opposites are crucial to the ongoing regeneration of the "new thang." (11) The rigid, and dead, right way is replaced, then, by a crossroads at which such opposites as mystery and science do not so much act as binaries jockeying for position as they explode the very lines that divide them, reconstituting the structures by which we know our world. (12)
The crossroads is, in fact, that point at which Reed's novel leaves its readers; at its close we watch LaBas driving his Locomobile Town Coupe across the bridge into Manhattan, back where the story begins and ends. At the final "Freeze frame," then, LaBas is suspended in-between, symbolizing his ability to bridge disparate cultures as well as disparate realms, including "real and spiritual worlds" (Shadle 65). The final moment in the novel can even be viewed as a bridging, or rupture, of the dividing line between fiction and reality. In the penultimate line, "Skyscrapers gleam like magic trees" (218), in which case "the fictive world is both real and fiction" (Shadle 66); I would add that the "real" world in this instance is also fictional, simultaneously both concrete and steel as well as the stuff of "magic." Reed suspends his reader, not on a side--as does Atonism--or at an end point--as does the science of detection--but at a multi-directional, multi-cultural crossroads where the lines that define history and reality are ruptured, regenerated, and revised.
Crossing Social Space(s)
The Neo-Hoodoo emphasis on the crossroads has compelling implications for spatial analysis, regarding both how space is imagined and produced. By working toward a rupture of the plane, a rupture of spatial boundaries, the Neo-Hoodoo produces a "kind of 'exploded space'(McGee 82) which obviously threatens the spatial logic through which the Atonists maintain their social order. The Atonist vision of Western space is synonymous with what Deleuze and Guattari term a "striated space," or the space of State science, which they suggest is both "limited and limiting" (382). The space of the nomad, on the other hand, is a "Smooth space," an open space yet to be plotted, fenced, or demarcated by Western spatial practices. Smooth spaces pose an obvious threat to the striated spaces to which the Atonist mind subscribes; the very existence of such spaces, in fact, disrupts the Atonist spatial "order." Accordingly,
One of the fundamental tasks of the State is to striate the space over which it reigns...It is a vital concern of every state not only to vanquish nomadism but to control migrations and, more generally, to establish a zone of rights over an entire "exterior," over all of the flows traversing the ecumenon. If it can help it, the State does not dissociate itself from a process of capture of flows of all kinds, populations, commodities or commerce, money or capital, etc. There is still a need for fixed paths in well-defined directions, which restrict speed, regulate circulation, relativize movement, and measure in detail the relative movements of subjects and objects. (Deleuze and Guattari 385-86)
Deleuze and Guattari explain further that "each time there is an operation against the State--insubordination, rioting, guerrilla warfare, or revolution as act--it can be said...that a new nomadic potential has appeared, accompanied by the reconstitution of a smooth space or a manner of being in space as though it were smooth.... It is in this sense that the response of the State against all that threatens to move beyond it is to striate space" (386).
Jes Grew, a "Creeping Thing," embodies this "nomadic potential" in its resistence to the striating logic of Western science. When the Mayor of New Orleans asks one of the doctors treating Jes Grew Carriers, "But can't you put it under 1 of them microscopes? Lock it in?" the doctor explains, "It's nothing we can bring into focus or categorize; once we call it 1 thing it forms into something else" (4). Jes Grew is the migration, the flow that cannot be controlled or restricted; it creeps across the supposedly variegated American landscape, defying all boundaries; it "knows no class no race no consciousness" (5). In other words, it disregards all Atonist social demarcations regarding both the subject and the space the subject inhabits. And as we have seen, Jes Grew refuses to be placed in a box or in a determinative text. Rather, Jes Grew moves as if in a smooth space, challenging categorizing limits that the State wishes to impose. As Deleuze and Guattari's comments would suggests, Jes Grew's transgression of t he clearly demarcated space of the State is met with swift and militant efforts to reproduce a more limited space that would restrict future flows. But the Atonists have set out to "capture" what ultimately cannot be captured. The solution the Atonists assume is to replace the "manic" (smooth) with the "lucid" (striated) by confining Jes Grew to its text, or to the Atonist version of textuality which does not open up meaning but restricts it to one reading, in effect killing it by preempting future signification. Jes Grew, however, lives on beyond the Text, or outside the striating lines of Atonist (classic detective) spatial production.
Mumbo Jumbo provides another example of this interaction between smooth and striated space, between delimiting boundaries and nomadic flows, in its dramatization of the efforts on the part of the Mu'tafikah to recover Eastern art from American and European museums. As one of the multiple narrative voices in the novel reports, in a news radio parody, "Compounding" the "Jes Grew crisis," "Black Yellow and Red Mu'taflkah were looting the museums shipping the plunder back to where it came from" (15). While this group of art-nappers works to liberate the art of non-Western cultures, the Atonists "believe that art should be placed in intellectual cells to hinder people from being moved by it" (Carter 269). Significantly, Reed depicts museums as "Centers of Art Detention," aesthetic prisons inside which America looks to "guard the 'fetishes' of civilization" (15). In fact, the Curator of the Center of Art Detention just happens to be former, corrupt Police Commissioner Biff Musclewhite, who the novel makes clear has been hired not because of any knowledge of art but because of his experience in policing the striated space within which the Atonist order has confined the nomad art that threatens to move its beholders beyond the State's established "zone of rights." In retaliation, the Mu'tafikah are, as McGee puts if, attempting "to extract the art of the third world from the space of the norm and return it to the realm of the incommensurable" (97), to the smooth, undefined, de-historicized space of the nomad.
Musclewhite's connection to the police force reminds us that the conventional detective himself participates in this effort to striate space by containing both the crime and its repercussions as well as the criminal, or, in effect, all that threatens to disrupt the boundaries by which the State defines itself and its claims to power. Even the very "mental space" of the detective is subject to and reinforces the striating impulse of the State, for the detective can think only one way, can deduce only one truth, one history, one cause and one effect. LaBas, however, is no conventional detective, and his movement away from rigidity suggests that he is learning to move and think as if in a smooth space, or in keeping with his position in Voodoo tradition, as if at the crossroads between the striated and the smooth, where the rupture of the plane occurs.
While Deleuze and Guattari set up the opposition between striated and smooth space, they also point out that this is no "simple opposition"; rather, "the two spaces in fact exist only in mixture: smooth space is constantly being translated, transversed into a striated space; striated space is constantly being reversed, returned to a smooth space" (474). They explain, "What interests us in operations of striation and smoothing are precisely the passages or combinations: how the forces at work within space continually striate it, and how in the course of its striation it develops other forces and emits new smooth spaces." Deleuze and Guattari go so far as to suggest that smooth space is not preferable in and of itself. They directly instruct us, "Never believe that a smooth space will suffice to save us," for "smooth spaces are not in themselves liberatory. But the struggle is changed or displaced in them, and life reconstitutes its stakes, confronts new obstacles, invents new paces, switches adversaries" (500) . In other words, the objective is not to capture a smooth space, which might ultimately mean its striation, but rather to interrogate the oppositional confluence at which the two types of space meet, the "constantly shifting borderline" (367) through which both spaces are constituted, and out of which Western spatial logic is challenged and at times exploded into a multi-directional space, into a "new thang."
Mumbo Jumbo further illustrates this ongoing tension between smooth space on one hand and striated space on the other at both physical and metaphysical levels. Obviously, the access the loas have to this world as well as the access that human beings have to the loas constitutes a breach in the striated space of Atonism. While the Judeo-Christian tradition also speaks of another realm, it preaches strict adherence to one God and one path, the only way to the "other side." As Battraville notes, the Atonists have a "fetish about highways," clearly marked paths which it appears the Atonists wish to extend across the ontological divide. This adherence to the one way stands in sharp contrast to the Voodoo notion of multiple gods transgressing seemingly impervious ontological barriers. In this respect, LaBas's interaction with the loas, an operation that opens up or stretches out the space of the quotidian, directly conflicts with the Atonist desire to convert the incommensurable space of the metaphysical into a str iated space that can be policed and categorized.
And it is not merely the space of the "other world" that is causing problems for or threatening the Atonist spatial order. Mumbo Jumbo dramatizes the tension between smooth and striated space at a more concrete level as well, most notably within the space of the city, or more precisely the space of Harlem. As Deleuze and Guattari suggest, the "city is the striated space par excellence" (481). Even the criminal element of the city follows its striated logic, as evidenced by the turf wars between rival gangs that we witness in Reed's novel. Deleuze and Guattari add, however, that "even the most striated city gives rise to smooth spaces. ... Movements, speed and slowness are sometimes enough to reconstruct a smooth space" (500). The movement of Jes Grew threatens to do just that. In anticipation of its arrival "Wall Street is tense" (21), for a bout of Jes Grew leaves another city, New Orleans, "a mess" (17), a mess that the striating logic of the Atonists seeks quickly to tidy up. Interestingly enough, Reed's n ovel suggests that the threat to the striated space of the Atonist city is indeed the result of a fluctuation in the speed of movement. Reed includes a quotation in Mumbo Jumbo which suggests, "Jazz did a number of things to popular music as well as to metropolitan life. It sped up the tempo of things.... Once the new musical spirit had come, it rapidly spread into daily--and nightly--activities" (115; my emphasis). Thus, jazz, a Jes Grew phenomenon, changes the flows of 1920s' New York City, particularly of Harlem, altering its migrations as well as the circulation of commodities within the city: White consumers are circulating through Harlem commercial and cultural sites; more money is being distributed throughout ghetto spaces; and black culture is being distributed among white consumers and carried outside Harlem. One might argue that jazz itself belongs to and produces a smooth space. Deleuze and Guattari, in fact, propose a musical model to aid our understanding of the difference between smooth and striated spaces; they argue that "the smooth is the continuous variation, continuous development of form" (478)--this is, of course, an apt description of jazz. It is important to note that, despite its "continuous variation," jazz begins in or develops out of striation, out of the common melody upon which it improvises. Jazz rises, then, out of an amalgamation of forms. It is a nomad art which speeds up the quotidian, reconstituting a smooth space, a space both within the striated, logic-bound city as well as somehow beyond it.
As Mumbo Jumbo reminds us, the logic, or il-logic, of jazz and its potential nomadic challenge to the striated space of the city, particularly to the space of Harlem, was met with the infiltration of the Harlem nightclub scene--which facilitates the spread of Jes Grew, and subsequently the spread of smooth space--by the guardians of striated space. Most notably in the novel, we find Biff Musclewhite, who makes a profession of imprisoning art forms, frequenting Harlem cabarets such as The Cotton Club. While these visits to the spatial and cultural crossroads expose him to the contagion, his trips to Harlem also allow him to keep an eye on, to police the development of this smooth space within the otherwise striated city. We witness an even more overt attempt to infiltrate and re-contain the space produced by Jes Grew in the Atonist contingency plan--in case they cannot locate Jes Grew's Text--"to groom a Talking Android who will work within the Negro ... to drive it [Jes Grew] out, categorize it analyze it ex pel it slay it blot it out" (17). H.V.V. astutely recognizes that, because the white Atonists control the media, "J.G.C.s have no control over who speaks for them." The Talking Android is, then, to speak for Jes Grew and in the process to "tell it that it is derivative" (69). In other words, the Android will keep J.G. from its "Speaking" by imitating the latter, or at least that's the plan. But this can be accomplished only from "within" the space of the nomad, or the alien cultural form. While initially H.V.V. and Gould seek an African-American spokesman for this job, interviewing a number of black writers as possible candidates, eventually Safecracker Gould himself takes the position. Gould is qualified because he has been stealing African-American culture by infiltrating Harlem cabarets, the space in question. During one of his many visits to a Harlem nightclub, Gould concentrates on "writing down the 'nigger mumbo jumbo words' he is hearing from the surrounding tables" (101). He even attempts to capture t he dances, which he admits are "difficult to write down" (103). Gould is, in effect, writing his own text, or script for Jes Grew, but his is not the Text which will enliven the epidemic, but a text intended to "categorize" and kill; that is, to arrest Jes Grew by placing the "mumbo jumbo" he has copied down within the striated space of the Western Logos, inside which Jes Grew cannot survive. Through both Musclewhite and Gould, then, the State works from within the potentially smooth space of the Harlem nightclub, drawing the smooth space of the J.G.C.s back into the striated space of the modernist city.
Much to the dismay of the Atonists, the plan to implement the Talking Android is ultimately ineffective in capturing a rampaging Jes Grew. While H.V.V. is correct in his observation that the white Atonists control the media and, therefore, have the potential to either control the voice of the J.G.C.s or simply to overwhelm them with Atonist propaganda, their notion that they might imitate the voice of Jes Grew is based on the false assumption that all J.G.C.s speak alike. Here again, they presume the ability to contain the language of Jes Grew within the bounds of a striated space. African-American poet Major Young, who is modeled on Langston Hughes, questions this Atonist assumption that all African-American artists share a common, striated voice. Young asks H.V.V., "Is it necessary for us to write the same way?" Young argues further, "I am not Wallace Thurman, Thurman is not Fauset and Fauset is not Claude McKay, McKay isn't Horne. We all have unique styles" (102). The voice of Jes Grew, of the "new thang, " then, does not belong to the homogenized space that Atonism produces--the space inside which the detective can solve all crimes--but is, rather, like jazz, "a continuous variation of form," a perpetual becoming that, like Reed's Neo-HooDoo mystery novel, remains open-ended.
Reed depicts Harlem, then, as a space of contention inside which two differing productions of space mix and compete. Ironically, while Atonists focus their efforts on striating this space, these efforts, unintentionally, produce a cultural crossroads out of which "new combinations," cultural and spatial, have the potential to grow. Marginalized spaces within the city inevitably constitute a contested space in that such spaces are simultaneously both part of the prototypical, striating logic of the city, as well as equally outside the flows--economically and socially--of the city. In the case of Harlem in particular, what we find in Reed's novel is that, due to racial oppression and economic deprivation, the space of Harlem breeds nomadic potential that threatens to disrupt the striating logic of the Atonist dream. Just as the caging of Eastern art within Western institutions ignites the Mu'tafikah to action, to attempt to free the nomadic art from such spaces of striation, so the Atonist efforts to contain Af rican Americans and their culture within the striating space of the city--boxed in the parameters of the metropolis, where its boundaries and potential permutations can be policed--ultimately inspire the J.G.C.s to look for "new combinations" that defy the Western notions of space and culture. Following Deleuze and Guattari, one might argue that not only are the Atonist efforts to striate all space unable to contain Jes Grew, but, ultimately, the effort at striation in this case has the reverse effect and actually "emits new smooth spaces" (500), or at least those spaces at the crossroads that defy the one-way logic the Atonists wish to impose on all peoples and places.
As Deleuze and Guattari point out, the battle between the mutually constitutive spaces of the smooth and the striated continues on indefinitely; that is to say, while the smooth space of Jes Grew challenges the neat lines drawn by Atonism, there are also forces at work within the State that continually striate all space. In fact, as Deleuze and Guattari might predict, the dissolution of Jes Grew and the Harlem Renaissance results from the Atonists' ability to capture flows, or more specifically to "regulate circulation." In Mumbo Jumbo Jes Grew's relapse into dormancy is attributed to a conspiracy on the part of wealthy Atonists to spark the Depression. An insightful Walter Mellon, the mastermind of this plan, explains to the Hierophant 1, "The liquidity of Jes Grew has resulted in a hyperinflated situation, all you hear is more, more, increase growth.... Suppose we shut down a few temples. ... I mean banks, take money out of circulation, how would people be able to support the appendages of Jes Grew" (154). It seems that the speed-up of the Jazz Age has produced a speed-up in economic circulation, and while this would appear to be desirable to Atonist capitalists, it threatens to move beyond their control, to overflow the striating networks of circulation they have constructed. Deleuze and Guattari explain that, while capitalism has taken striation to "an unequaled point of perfection, circulating capital necessarily recreated, reconstituted, a sort of smooth space in which the destiny of human beings is recast" (492). This becomes readily apparent in the age of global capitalism, for, as they suggest, "striation... relates primarily to the State pole of capitalism, in other words, to the role of the modem State apparatuses in the organization of capital," the very apparatuses the Atonists in Mumbo Jumbo manipulate. However, once capitalism expands to a global level, "a new smooth space is produced in which capital reaches its 'absolute' speed.. . . The multinationals fabricate a kind of deterritorialized smooth space in which points of occupation as well as poles of exchange become quite independent of the classical paths to striation" (492). While these comments may not seem applicable to Mumbo Jumbo, in that Mellon's plan to control circulation takes place in the 1920s, prior to the age of "global capitalism," we should remember that Reed writes from a postmodern perspective, in the midst of the phase of multinational capitalism which, in keeping with his view of history, he projects back onto the State capitalism of the interwar years. Reed depicts the Atonist capitalists of the 1920s as having already tapped into global networks. Furthermore, Jes Grew is threatening to go "pandemic"; that is, its speed and logic threaten to alter the flows at a worldwide level.
Ironically, by conspiring outside the State pole, or in manipulating State apparatuses from outside the State, the private capitalism of Mellon and his cohorts has, as Deleuze and Guattari would suggest, opened the way for the striated space of State capitalism to be recast. But as Mellon recognizes, if the circulation of capital is restricted, drawn back within the domain of the striating State apparatuses, Jes Grew cannot be supported. The growing global networks of circulation that Jes Grew would travel, appropriate, and alter will be striated to the point of restricting its flow entirely. Circulation will be shut down.
In addition to the space of the city and the space of global capitalism, Mumbo Jumbo also suggests that the body, in particular the racialized body, can be viewed as a surface subject to Atonist mapping, for under the Atonist regime the body itself is striated, racially classified and categorized. The Atonist notion of constructing a Talking Android that cart imitate blackness is, obviously, predicated on the notion that blackness is itself a definable, categorizable essence. This sentiment underlies H.V.V.'s suggestion to Major Young that presumably all black artists think and write alike because they belong to the same racial category, a category constructed by the Atonists. Again, though, Young counters Von Vampton by suggesting, "We all have our unique styles" (102). In his reading of this passage, McGee suggests that Von Vampton's assumptions, and those of others like him, "can be dangerous insofar as they identify African-American writing with a homogeneous concept of ethnicity." McGee argues, "A 'uniqu e' style breaks away from such a norm." Furthermore, a "unique style" potentially "subverts the ends, or instrumental functions, of race in late capitalist culture by disrupting the process of racial identification through the articulation of the incommensurable" (100). In other words, while Atonist cultural logic striates racial and ethnic categories, the unique, or that which does not fit already fixed categories, disrupts the striating assumptions that subtend racial categories because it exceeds such limits; it moves as if within a smooth space. Ironically, Gould's "passing" as black itself questions the very racial categories the Atonists wish to secure by suggesting the possibility of racial nomadism that defies strict striation.
We should not, of course, take Reed's invocation of the metaphysical as solely a metaphor for what occurs in the material world (though the supernatural in the Voodoo tradition is always pertinent to the material). As Reed himself makes clear, "When I say I use the Voodoo aesthetic I'm not just kidding around" (Shrovetide 233). My point is that Reed is quite serious about his use of Voodoo, as we see in Mumbo Jumbo's repeated invocation of the loas and the most unknowable of spaces, that of the "other world." The unknowability of this other world is precisely what makes it so appealing to Reed's project, for by invoking the supernatural he draws it into this world, or into the striated vision of this world, causing the two planes to collide and, quite possibly, to explode one another. Mumbo Jumbo leaves us in a state of suspense at the end, or at the crossroads, for a reason, for the crossroads is where the opposites meet--black and white, East and West, science and mystery, smooth and striated--and potential ly create new "combinations." While the classic detective seeks the certain path, the one right way, LaBas the Neo-Hoodoo detective is learning to live in a spatial amalgamation on the borderline, for it is only in this space that Reed's vision of multiculturalism can be realized and difference embraced (rather than repressed or dismissed as "pathological"). Atonism is not, then, defeated by the instantiation of a different "right way," but rather by the obliteration of the either/or, by the rupture of planes that occurs at the crossroads where the smooth and striated interact, compete, and potentially explode.
(1.) In Uncle Tom's Cabin, Topsy's mistress Miss Ophelia questions her about her father and mother--Topsy claims she never had any--and then about her belief in God: "Do you know who made you?" "Nobody as I knows on," Topsy answers. "I spect I grow'd. Don't think nobody never made me." Later, in the many theatrical versions of Uncle Tom's Cabin "I grow'd" became "I jes grew," and ultimately became proverbial: "Like Topsy, it jes grew," meaning something happened spontaneously, without planning.
(2.) In "Whodunit and Other Questions: Metaphysical Detective Stories in Post-War Fiction," Michael Holdquist explains that "the new metaphysical detective story... is non-teleological, is not concerned to have a neat ending in which all questions are answered, and which can therefore be forgotten." The questions remain at the end; clues lead not to solutions but rather to other disseminating clues, and finally the "end" fails to create closure. Thus, "instead of familiarity," metaphysical detective stories give "strangeness." "Instead of reassurance, they disturb" (153). Examples of metaphysical detective fiction include Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy as well as Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. For an extended discussion of metaphysical detective fiction, see the recent anthology compiled by Patricia Merivale and Susan Elizabeth Sweeney, Detecting Texts: The Metaphysical Detective Story from Poe to Postmodernism.
(3.) For a more in-depth discussion of loas, see Maya Deren's Divine Horseman--a source Reed includes in Mumbo Jumbo's bibliography--or Zora Neale Hurston's Tell My Horse, to which Reed contributed an introduction.
(4.) Mumbo Jumbo is not the only example of a metaphysical detective novel that introduces the world of the supernatural into the human or material world of the detective. In Peter Ackroyd's Hawksmoor, an eighteenth-century architect, Nicholas Dyer, taps into occult or otherworldly powers by presenting a human sacrifice at each of seven churches he has been commissioned to build. These powers allow him to transcend time and space, evidently catapulting him, or some version of himself, into the twentieth century, where he lives as a tramp and a murderer, killing at the very churches he designed. Hawksmoor, a conventional detective facing a highly unconventional case, not only cannot locate Dyer, the tramp-murderer, but at the end of the novel, through supernatural causes, Dyer and Hawksmoor collapse into one another, as if Dyer has become Hawksmoor and vice versa. In John Fowles's A Maggot we are presented with the mysterious disappearance of an eighteenth-century nobleman, who, depending on which account we b elieve, either has been abducted by the devil during an occult ritual or has been transported off this planet in an alien craft.
(5.) Steven Carter first examined Reed's treatment of the detective novel in 1976, suggesting that Mumbo Jumbo offers a "valuable extension" of the mystery form that is "after bigger game than individual evil-doers" (270, 266). Subsequent works by Patrick McGee and Helen Lock, whose scholarship is instrumental in my own project, have expanded on Carter's initial insights as has Sami Ludwig.
(6.) See Sweeney; Willet.
(7.) See Miller; Woods.
(8.) Even the novel's title exemplifies the amalgamation of which Reed speaks. While in the English language mumbo jumbo is equated with nonsense, Reed's novel provides an etymology for the term that indicates that it was derived from a Mandingo word referring to one "who makes the troubled spirits of ancestors go away" (7). According to Robert Fox, "Ironically, at the same time that the words lost their original meaning, they took on a meaning which troubled the spirits of whites, invoking the fearful, atavistic vision of the 'dark continent' that Africa inspired in the West, which Vachel Lindsay summed up in his poem The Congo (1914): 'Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you'" (52). Thus, by highlighting the term mumbo jumbo, Reed not only reintroduces a piece of African culture but also invokes a history of conflicting meanings and interpretations produced by cultural amalgamation.
(9.) The Villa Lewaro is actually modeled on a real Harlem Renaissance-era country house, Madame C.J. Walker's place at lrvington-on-Hudson.
(10.) It is important to recognize that, while Mumbo Jumbo resists the Western impulse to solve mysteries, determine meanings, and discover truths, this does not mean that Reed's detective novel does not concern itself with attaining knowledge. The difference is that Mumbo Jumbo does not reveal an immutable truth that explains and firmly establishes the events of the past; rather, it exposes as always suspect the grounds upon which such knowledge is founded. Furthermore, it introduces the reader to an entirely different concept of knowledge in which mystery signals not so much a lack of knowledge as a willingness to open--or "stretch"--one's mind to a different kind of knowledge: a knowledge that remains alive, a knowledge that is repeatedly renegotiated through a willingness to improvise.
(11.) There is a parallel motif in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, in which the monk detective William of Baskerville resists using "irrational' means to solve the crime, only later to discover that his efforts to discover a "pattern that...underlies all the crimes" has caused him to miss the "accidental" or irrational nature of the crimes he seeks to solve (599).
(12.) Fox takes the notion of "rupture of plane" from Mircea Eliade, who suggests that it allows for the "rediscovery of the primordial spontaneity" (271 -72).
(13.) Reed's attention to the crossroads is reminiscent of another metaphysical detective novel, Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, in which the detective Tyrone Slothrop actually becomes himself a crossroads or the ruptured plane itself.
Ackroyd, Peter. Hawksmoor. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1985.
Carter, Steven R. "Ishmael Reed's Neo-HooDoo Detection." Dimensions of Detective Fiction. Ed. Larry Landrum, et al. Bowling Green: Bowling Green U Popular P, 1976. 265-74.
Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1987.
Deren, Maya. Divine Horseman: The Living Gods of Haiti. London: Thames and Hudson, 1953.
Eco, Umberto. The Name of the Rose. Trans. William Weaver. New York: Harcourt, 1980.
Eliade, Mircea. Yoga: Immortality and Freedom. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1970.
Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-77. Trans. Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon, 1980.
Fowles, John. A Maggot. New York: Plume, 1985.
Fox, Robert Elliot. "Blacking the Zero: Toward a Semiotics of Nao-Hoodoo." The Critical Response to Ishmael Reed. Ed. Bruce Allen Dick. Westport: Greenwood, 1999. 46-58.
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African American Literary Criticism. New York: Oxford UP, 1988.
Holquist, Michael. "Whodunit and Other Questions: Metaphysical Detective Stories in Post-War Fiction." New Literary History 3 (1971-72): 135-56.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Tell My Horse. New York: Lippincott, 1938.
Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991.
Lock, Helen. A Case of Mis-Taken Identity: Detective Undercurrents in Recent African American Fiction. New York: Peter Lang, 1994.
Ludwig, Sami. "Ishmael Reeds Inductive Narratology of Detection." African American Review 32 (1998): 435-44.
McGee, Patrick. Ishmael Reed and the Ends of Race. New York: St. Martins P, 1997.
Merivale, Patricia, and Susan Elizabeth Sweeney. Detecting Texts: The Metaphysical Detective Story from Poe to Postmodernism. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1999.
Miller, D. A. "The Novel and the Police." The Poetics of Murder: Detective Fiction and Literary Theory. Ed. Glenn W. Most and William W. Stowe. New York: Harcourt, 1983. 299-326.
Reed, Ishmael. Mumbo Jumbo. 1972. New York: Antheneum, 1988.
--. Shrovetide in Old New Orleans. Garden City: Doubleday, 1978.
Shadle, Mark. "A Bird's Eye View: Ishmael Reed's Unsettling of the Score by Munching and Mooching on the Mumbo Jumbo Work of History." The Critical Response to Ishmael Reed. Ed. Bruce Allen Dick. Westport: Greenwood, 1999. 59-68.
Spanos, William V. "The Detective and the Boundary: Some Notes on the Postmodern Literary Imagination." Casebook on Existentialism 2. Ed. William V. Spanos. New York: Crowell, 1976. 163-89.
Sweeney, Susan Elizabeth. "Locked Rooms: Detective Fiction, Narrative Theory, and Self-Reflexivity." Walker and Frazer 1-14.
Walker, Ronald, and June M. Frazer, eds. The Cunning Craft: Original Essays on Detective Fiction and Contemporary Literary Theory. Macomb: Western Illinois UP, 1990.
Willet, Ralph. The Naked City: Urban Crime Fiction in the USA. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1996.
Woods, Robin. "'His Appearance is Against Him': The Emergence of the Detective." Walker and Frazer 15-24.
Richard Swope is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras. He would like to acknowledge Brian McHale for both his critical insight and support.
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|Publication:||African American Review|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2002|
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