by Ishmael Reed
Since the publication of his first novel, The Free-Lance Pallbearers, and through works such as Mumbo Jumbo and The Last Days of Louisiana Red, Ishmael Reed has forged a reputation as "the brightest contributor to American satire since Mark Twain" (The Nation). In his boisterous and irreverent new novel, Japanese by Spring, Reed turns the full force of his satiric wit on the American university. Benjamin "Chappie" Puttbutt, a black junior professor at overwhelmingly white Jack London College, lusts after tenure and its glorious perks, which include a house in the Oakland Hills. Puttbutt spends most of his time trying to divine the ideological climate at the school and obligingly adapting his beliefs to it. He's a dismal failure, though, and is due to be replaced by a snappy radical feminist poet from back East (who collects causes like alley cats, and whose demands include a police escort and a chauffeured limousine). But then Puttbutt's serene yet mysterious tutor, Dr. Yamato, who promises to teach him Japanese by spring, suddenly becomes the school's new president when the Japanese buy Jack London College. Puttbutt finds himself the boss of his once supercilious department and, drunk with power, sets out to stir things up and settle old scores. More twists of fate await him, and before long he is unwit tingly embroiled in a plot to assassinate the Japanese emperor. Racial strife, Japanophobia and political correctness get a radically comic treatment in this satiric romp through academic life, making Japanese by Spring one of Reed's most topical and wittiest novels yet.
Hardcover: 225 pages