Ishmael Reed: The Terrible Threes

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Ishmael Reed The Terrible Threes
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    The Terrible Threes
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    Dalkey Archive Press
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    Современная проза / на английском языке
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The Terrible Threes: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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In , Ishmael Reed proves that he is one of the most innovative voices in contemporary literature. This adventure into the world of offbeat humor and on-target social criticism is a vision of America in the not-too-distant future, a portrait of a fairy-tale gone awry. This novel begins where left off, in the late 1990s, three years after President and former fashion model Dean Clift was laughed out of office, with the nation in chaos and the White House implicated in a covert operation to rid America of surplus people and the Third World of its nuclear weapons. A blend of science fiction, folklore, history, fantasy, social satire, and all out surrealist comedy, bears Reed's distinctive voice and message. At once a threat, a promise, a prediction, and the awful truth about the land of the free and the home of the brave, the tale is wholly unforgettable. Once you've seen the world through Reed's eyes, you might never see it the same way again.

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Ishmael Reed

The Terrible Threes

To Steve Cannon,

whose novel will change

American fiction.

When turkeys mate, they think of swans.

— Johnny Carson

Black Peter Calypso

His family had no food stamps

and didn’t have no tree

The projects were their humble home

in New York on Avenue D

Don’t worry mom we’ll supper

can’t promise you no lamb

Black Peter went to reform school

for stealing a Xmas ham

for stealing a Xmas ham

He worked a smart street hustle

around Eighth avenue

He plied a little dummy

he threw his voice into

A vagrant stole his dummy

the thing he used to earn

He joined the Nic-o-la-ites

He had no place to turn

He thought for a brief sojourn

He thought for a brief sojourn

They fought the Xmas bosses

who turned Noel to sales

Who took Nick from the people

and gave him to the swells

They made a Nicholas dummy

he threw his voice into

It looked like old Kris Kringle

same weight same height same hue

It fought the Xmas bosses

it was their nudging foe

don’t buy their ugly war toys

don’t buy their flammable dolls

don’t buy the mink wrapped Barbies

they push on girls and boys

This made the bosses angry

what Peter had it say

For them the month of December

was time for a big pay day

And so at Peter’s party

on Seventh avenue

The bosses sent their hit men

to create a terrible din

to drive Pete to the bin

to drive Pete to the bin

and that is where he’s been

Where are you now Black Peter?

the chimney’s missing you

The mood of Xmas is not the same

the joy has gone from caroling

Jack Marse has taken back the fun

and killed the Xmas cheer

and killed the Xmas cheer


The Terrible Threes begins on Thanksgiving in the late nineteen-nineties. It’s been four years since the Christmas of the Terrible Twos, a Christmas which saw amazing events transpire in the White House of Dean Clift, former fashion model, who rose from Congressman to Vice President, and then to the Presidency after the death of General Walter Scott, hero of Dominica. Dean Clift was a hands-off President who didn’t know and didn’t care to know about the activities of his advisors, Admiral Matthews, Bob Krantz, Vice President Jesse Hatch, and Reverend Clement Jones, the administration’s spiritual advisor.

Clift changed, however, after his wife, Elizabeth, the first lady, was electrocuted while lighting the White House Christmas tree, and he was visited by Saint Nicholas, who revealed to him the fate of former leaders, who had made terrible and tragic mistakes. Saint Nicholas, out to remove his Protestant image as that of a buffoon in a red suit, also warned Clift of a covert operation, developed by Krantz, Jones, and Matthews, code-named Two Birds, a plan to rid America of surplus people and wipe out an African country in possession of nuclear weapons at the same time. Nobody believed Dean Clift, when he discussed his vision before a nationwide television audience, and the Twenty-fifth Amendment regarding Presidential disability was invoked to remove him from office to a private sanatorium about fifty miles from Washington. Saint Nicholas, who had hoped to change the course of history, went back to the drawing board.

Black Peter learns of an imposter Black Peter who gave the toy manufacturers a worrisome time during the Terrible Twos Christmas while a member of a sect which holds Nicholas to be divine. He emerges from Guinea, an island beneath the Caribbean Ocean, to challenge this Peter, a Risto Rasta who has been living in underground Manhattan since a riot that happened during a Christmas party at Madison Square Garden, which was precipitated by Jack Frost, and his goons, an employee of the toy manufacturers and Christmas card merchants. Nance Saturday, a wannabe detective, whom the clues are always ahead of, failed in his attempt to locate Snow Man, a hit man hired by a gangster named Joe Baby to assassinate Boy Bishop, leader of the Nicolaites.

Nance now drives a gypsy limousine, ferrying customers back and forth from La Guardia Airport to Manhattan. His ex-wife, Virginia, still has her television show.



Nance Saturday agreed with Genesis, where it said that man should not be alone. He spent a lot of time interacting with his electronic playmates. He was watching his ex-wife’s show. She was interviewing a woman whose hairstyle resembled that of a baby chick’s. “Thanksgiving is just an excuse for all of the misogynists and femiphobes of the country to keep women over a hot stove, and in the shopping aisles, searching for bargains on turkey. The American men are fully capable of obtaining their own cranberry sauce. Most of them don’t know how to carve a turkey, and so the women must also perform this chore. And so when people wish me a happy Thanksgiving, under the circumstances I wonder what there is to be so thankful about.” Becky was wearing a white shirt, buttoned at the collar, tight shiny black pants, no socks, and black shoes. She folded her arms and crossed her legs. She then lit a cigarette. “I agree with you, Becky,” Virginia said. “My ex-husband didn’t even earn enough money to buy the turkey. He was always doing odd jobs. I paid his way through a year of law school, but then he dropped out. Now I’ve found a man who really knows how to carve the turkey. He’s sensitive. He’s considerate. And he’s ten years younger than I am.” To think that he spent those years sleeping next to a woman who would later tell their secrets to a nationwide audience. Her ratings were as high as those of her only rival, Okra Hippo, who had to be moved into the studio for appearances on her network by piano movers. He switched channels to watch her. An Asian-American man was speaking heatedly to an Asian-American woman. The man was furious. The camera kept cutting away to the audience of mostly white women, who were giving the man a cool response. The woman calmly sat in her chair, ignoring her debating opponent’s fury. She was wearing a black suit and a man’s tie. Okra asked her a question. He turned up the audio. “I think that Mr. Hamamoto’s arguments are absurd. To suggest that the American government owes the Japanese-American community reparations. As usual, Mr. Hamamoto ignores the facts. He speaks of internment.” An identification came on the screen. “Beechiko Mizuni.” “He fails to distinguish between internment and relocation. Only a few thousand Japanese Americans were actually interned. But speaking to the larger question, I say that the United States did Japanese-American women a great favor. They removed them from homes in which they were brutalized by Japanese-American men. A far greater imprisonment, next to which relocation or internment were minor inconveniences. So instead of receiving $20,000 in compensation, Japanese Americans should be donating that amount to our generous government.” The audience erupted into wild applause. The camera cut to the man. He was shaking his head sadly.

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