Wajahat Ali speaks with Ishmael Reed, at Goatmilk:
“Hey, Waj. Come on in. Did you bring your mom’s Biryani?” asks an eager and excited Ishmael Reed, the MacArthur Genius recipient, Pulitzer Prize nominated author and all around, all-star, controversial rabble-rouser.
Sorry, mom couldn’t make it this time. She asked for a rain check,” I reply and see Reed’s anticipation and grin fall for a moment.
“Well, it’s ok, no problem. Next time. Hey, does that Pakistani joint on San Pablo in Berkeley still serve goat? I think we’ll go get the goat special. Here, come on in to the kitchen, let’s do this.”
Entering the Reed household is like stepping foot into a delicate and vast Archival section of a genius-madman’s library. A wondrous display of books – running the gamut of diversity from novels to poetry to politics to sociology – somehow elegantly juxtaposed to African, European, and American art sculptures and paintings. Then, there’s the papers, including newspapers, reports, journals, and essays, piled on top of one another like a carefully constructed Jenga puzzle ready to blow over at the threat of a loud, inappropriate violent sneeze or negligent and thoughtless sway of a reckless hand gesture. Boxes of books and decades old papers, no doubt a culmination of research Reed uses for his novels and polemical essays, line the stairwells and hallways. This is a house is where documents come to retire: a senior citizens home and Valhalla for pugilistic evidence.
An open laptop sits on Reed’s kitchen table which is currently sharing space with nearly a dozen books and short stories Reed is reviewing and editing for an epic short story Anthology he is publishing in the Summer: Pow Wow: A Century of Short Fiction from Then To Now. The television is on; it’s CNN covering the Democratic Primaries.