Japanese by Spring

Overview

Benjamin "Chappie" Puttbutt, a black juior professor at the overwhelmingly white Jack London College, lusts after tenure and its glorious perks (including a house in the Oakland Hills). He spends most of his time trying to divine the ideological climate of the school and obligingly adapting his beliefs to it. When Puttbutt's mysterious Japanese tutor, who promises to teach him Japanese by spring, suddenly becomes the school's new president and appoints Puttbutt as academic dean, the fun really begins—for Puttbutt...

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Overview

Benjamin "Chappie" Puttbutt, a black juior professor at the overwhelmingly white Jack London College, lusts after tenure and its glorious perks (including a house in the Oakland Hills). He spends most of his time trying to divine the ideological climate of the school and obligingly adapting his beliefs to it. When Puttbutt's mysterious Japanese tutor, who promises to teach him Japanese by spring, suddenly becomes the school's new president and appoints Puttbutt as academic dean, the fun really begins—for Puttbutt sets out to stir things up and settle old scores.

Turning every contemporary political and social movement on its head—from feminism to nationalism to jingoism—this boistrois and irreverent novel manages to be by turns hilarious and totally serious.

"One of the funniest satires of university politics I've ever read. Ishmael Reed is funnier than Norman Mailer or Gore Vidal." —Leslie Marmon Silko

"Reed is, as always, an American original; a wiseguy whose wisdom is the real thing," —The Boston Sunday Globe

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
By turns strident and wittily incisive, Reed's satire of academia takes on Eurocentrism, Japan-bashing, racism, black conservatives and antiporn feminists, among other targets. Benjamin (``Chappie'') Puttbutt, a neoconservative black professor at a predominantly white college in nearby Oakland, Calif., opposes affirmative action and blames blacks for creating their own problems. Denied tenure, he fumes until his Japanese-language tutor, Dr. Yamato, becomes owner of the college and makes Puttbutt his right-hand man. Erstwhile ``houseboy'' Puttbutt takes sweet revenge on deconstructionists, feminists, traditionalists, neo-Nazis and other campus factions, but he is chagrined when chauvinistic Dr. Yamato imposes IQ tests devised in Japan, denounces whites as lazy coolies, orders campus security guards to beat up student dissidents and expels all American-born Chinese and Japanese students. Bizarre plot twists include Puttbutt's torrid romance with a murderous white professor's Japanese wife and the ouster of Dr. Yamato, who may have the backing of top-level U.S. government officials scheming to make him Japan's ruler. Gleefully portraying academia as the scene of vicious turf wars, Reed himself makes a cameo appearance here, tweaking Puttbutt and airing his views on the Los Angeles riots, arts censorship and the Persian Gulf war. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Born into a distinguished family of black military officers, Chappie Puttbutt becomes an English professor at racist Jack London University after he is expelled from the Air Force Academy. Although he seeks approval by attacking affirmative action and multiculturalism, he is still denied tenure in a department where many varieties of political correctness vie for control. Family and academic politics soon expand to the international realm when Puttbutt's Japanese-language tutor takes over the university and initiates a campaign to affirm Japanese cultural supremacy under a restored shogunate. Though Reed aims his satire primarily at academic follies and phobias, few forms of extremism escape his sharp wit. Still, he is an intrusive character in his own novel, at times letting his commentary overpower the richly comic narrative. Recommended for most collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/92.-- Albert Wilhelm, Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140255850
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/28/1996
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,425,699
  • Product dimensions: 5.14 (w) x 7.68 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Ishmael Reed is one of America's most renowned African-American writers. He is the author of plays, poetry and novels, including Japanese by Spring. He lives in Oakland, California.

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