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The Michael Eric Dyson Reader.

The Michael Eric Dyson Reader by Michael Eric Dyson Basic Civitas Books, January 2004 $29.95, ISBN 0-465-01768-1

There was a time when, if a writer or scholar had a "Reader" it marked a plateau--an accumulation of books, essays, and articles that warranted collecting in a single volume. To this end, the names of Du Bois, Hughes, Hurston, even Baraka were logical choices. But Dyson? With only a decade of writing under his belt, eight books to his credit, and a passel of essays and op-ed pieces, Dyson once more breaks convention. And deconstruction is a familiar option to this native Detroiter who is nowadays among the leading public intellectuals on the hustings.

Dyson devotees will find nothing new in this collection, some of his most captivating moments are recycled. Good to see the interview from Open Mike: Reflections on Philosophy, Race, Sex, Culture and Religion (Basic Civitas Books, December 2002), where Dyson elaborates on how after passing his prospectus, approving his dissertation topic, he reached under the table and handed the completed work to his committee members. Cornel West, et al. were stunned.

Sometimes listening to Dyson, I hear elements of Ken Cockrel, the late attorney from Detroit, whose riffs were as mesmerizing as they were ablaze with political urgencies. Dyson has often spoken of Cockrel's influence on him, and in many respects he has captured that same volubility, that same gift of gab where the colloquy moves smoothly from high-octane verbosity to easily accessible street jargon.

That grasp of the vernacular that is so evident in Dyson's raps makes it to the page without losing any of its vigor and velocity. In one illuminating paragraph, he is capable of linking an 18th-century philosopher such as Immanuel Kant with Snoop Doggy Dogg, Of course, the sheer pleasure of knowledge, of engaging great ideas and wrestling with great thinkers, is not in dispute: Socrates's dialogues, Shakespeare's sonnets, Beethoven's concertos, Newton's calculus, and Douglass's autobiographies, all have great intrinsic worth. So, too, do the ideas of Michael Eric Dyson, and readers will love this Reader.

--Reviewed by Herb Boyd
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Author:Boyd, Herb
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2004
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