Multicultiboho Sideshow: A Novel

Multicultiboho Sideshow: A Novel

by Alexs D. Pate

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In this provocative and searing satire, young, unpublished, African American author Ichabod Word captures and holds hostage unsuspecting law officer Bloom. Icky proceeds to regale Bloom with a rambling tale of anger and woe about Dewitt McMichael, a benefactor of artists of color who is now a garbage bag-wrapped corpse in the corner of his living room. Even if it


In this provocative and searing satire, young, unpublished, African American author Ichabod Word captures and holds hostage unsuspecting law officer Bloom. Icky proceeds to regale Bloom with a rambling tale of anger and woe about Dewitt McMichael, a benefactor of artists of color who is now a garbage bag-wrapped corpse in the corner of his living room. Even if it proves to be his last, desperate act on this earth, Icky is determined to vent in full the bizarre circumstances that led to the latter's demise — a mind-boggling chronicle of power, immorality, money, political stratification, racial discrimination, brilliant creation, and desecration.

Alternately sobering and screamingly funny, Alexs D. Pate's The Multicultiboho Sideshow is a blistering and remarkable work that spares nothing and no one.

Editorial Reviews

Dallas Morning News
Pate's graceful writing creates poetry out of tragedy.
Fine writing...a storyline that many who have experienced difficulty in love (and who hasn't? will understand.
Twin Cities Reader
A richly emotional reading experience...a powerful portrait of lost love and hoped for understanding between father and daughter...Finding Makeba is astark, insightful illumination of human frailty, and of the courage required to overcome it.
San Francisco Examiner And Chronicle
Pate wields the twin scalpels of irony and tragedy with a deftness that recalls August Wilson.
Fine writing...a storyline that many who have experienced difficulty in love (and who hasn't? will understand.
Detroit Free-Press
A potent mix of cultural criticism, racial politics, and artistic jealousies.
Michigan Daily
Pate succeeds in providing a symbolic novel about American society today. Embracing honesty, irony and humor . . . .
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ichabod "Icky" Word, an ambitious young African-American writer and the protagonist of Pate's (Losing Absalom) inventive tale of crime, art, politics and black rage, needs to be heard. To gain his brief moment in the limelight, Word lures Bill Bloom, a white lieutenant with the Minneapolis Police Department, to his apartment and immediately takes him captive. Strapping the fat, battle-weary, middle-aged detective in a chair with duct tape, Word reveals the purpose of his bizarre hostage scheme, beginning a rambling, fragmented story about the powerful cultural and racial forces that have brought him to this pass. Complicating matters is the police barricade of the apartment, not to mention the garbage bag-wrapped presence of the corpse of Dewitt McMichaels, a man who was once an influential cultural maven with the power to make and break careers in the multicultural art world. Though the setup seems contrived at first, Pate effectively explores each man's personal history and emotional state, shifting adroitly from voice to voice and suffusing the dialogue with humor and irony. Veteran police officer Bloom takes a truthful measure of his faltering marriage, dead-end job and lackluster life. Meanwhile, Word describes his dealings with the circle of art-world friends he calls his "multicultiboho tribe," all of whom may or may not be implicated in McMichaels's murder. With time running out and nervous police snipers on nearby rooftops, the mystery of the murder is slowly unraveled--and Word and Bloom ultimately gain a realistic understanding of each other that civil rights laws could never mandate. Though his exuberance sometimes gets the better of him and translates into sloppy prose, Pate combines elements of a classic whodunit with the best qualities of stinging social satire, venturing beyond formula and genre. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Pate's fourth (Finding Makeba, 1997, etc.) is indeed a multicultural sideshow headlined by a struggling African-American writer who attempts to explain the death of a white, grant-giving benefactor to a cop. One morning Ichabod "Icky" Word, an unpublished novelist eking out a living in Minneapolis, calls the police to his apartment. When Lt. Bill Bloom arrives alone, Word disarms him, ties him to a chair, and gags him before launching into a book-long explanation of the dead body in the corner of his apartment. The body is that of Dewitt McMichael, a white officer of the Shrubbery Foundation and a self-styled benefactor of underrepresented art, who recently assembled a group of "minority" artists to inform them they were finalists for a half-million-dollar grant. Word had hosted a reception in his apartment for the contestants, and McMichael had joined them. During a particularly heated exchange about white underwriting of minority artists—and all the assumptions behind it—McMichael, maintains Word, died from a ruptured blood vessel, perhaps a stroke. On this spare frame of plot, Pate takes ample opportunity to embroider stereotypes, sexual prejudices, economic biases, police harassment, and the travails of Word's life in largely white Minneapolis. The fatal exchange, Word reports, involved McMichael's final confession: "The work you are doing just doesn't take me anywhere." Do the issues here sound too complex? Pate obligingly suggests that McMichael is doing this work to assuage the guilt he's felt, ever since boyhood, when he ran over his pet dog The author's essayistic subject—the cultural depiction of people who make artistic representations ofthemselves—overshadows his narrative. As with many book-length sermons, though, there are still some piquant and useful exhibits here.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Perennial
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.57(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Although distressed, Ichabod Word answered his front doorbell with the sweetest smile. He hadn't had time to shower or to change his clothes in more than twenty-four hours. He wore a stained black sweat shirt and a pair of black jeans that were so stretched and beaten from multiple washings that they were in danger of losing their blackness. His apartment reflected his own internal disarray. There were stacks of brightly colored plastic plates and cups scattered about the living room. There was overturned and broken furniture. There was a dead body which Ichabod had carefully wrapped in two plastic garbage bags, tied firmly, and pushed into a corner of the dining room. The place was an absolute mess.

For the past two hours, before the doorbell interrupted, he had been sitting quietly, contemplating his situation. To be perfectly accurate, at about an hour and forty-five minutes prior to the ringing of the doorbell, he'd decided to call the police. It had obviously taken them fifteen minutes to arrive. And in that time Ichabod had slipped back into deep thought.

He'd planned it very carefully. By the time he appeared at the front door, he was completely prepared, steely, and fundamentally disconnected from his body. Not really the Ichabod Word that was the youngest child of the West Philadelphia Words. But a man who was simply using that name. He knew all about Ichabod. He had lived that life consciously. He just didn't feel like himself anymore. He felt new, expectant. Or ...

Maybe he'd been gone too long.

Maybe he was too long gone from the hood. Too far away. Both intellectually and emotionally to still be that skinny littlekid that everybody called Icky.

But now, as he stood opposite a chunky white man dressed in a tired charcoal gray JCPenney suit, he hoped his plan would work. The man held a badge and identification card up to Ichabod's face.

Ichabod nodded and pressed the lever that unlatched the storm door and opened it about a foot. The man leaned back a little to let the door pass and then stuck his thick head into the open space.

"Did you call the police?" he asked.

"Yes." Ichabod stepped back but held the door open with his outstretched arm.

"I'm Lt. Bill Bloom, Minneapolis Police Department." The detective grabbed the edge of the door with his pudgy calloused fingers. Ichabod noticed that his fingernails were chewed to frayed edges.

Ichabod opened the door wider and stood aside. He felt the cop's eyes focused on his. But Ichabod refused to look in his direction. Instead, he withdrew farther into the house. He tried his best to disconnect his actions from his intentions. He smiled as strongly as he could.

"You called about the Ron Abbott case?" The lieutenant breathed his words heavy, a slight hint of moisture sparkled in the space just below his ear. Ichabod struggled to keep his smile but he knew he couldn't remain silent much longer. He felt his intentions begin their embrace of the moment. He reached behind him to the small table that stood just inside the doorway, and grabbed his gun. With no hesitation he brought it around and planted it quickly in the policeman's temple. Lieutenant Bloom realized just a little too late that he'd been duped. He instantly reached for his gun, but felt Ichabod's hand yanking it from his waistband before he could get there to stop it from happening.

"I would advise you, sir, to cooperate." Ichabod brought all of his unspecified anger into his voice. If ever there was a time when being a black man might prove useful, it was this situation.

The city of Minneapolis had been caught up in the throes of a search for a missing young man by the name of Ron Abbott. He'd been missing for about a week and had last been seen at a bar in the Mall of America. It had occurred to Ichabod that if he called and said that he had seen the man on the day of his disappearance, a detective, preferably one working alone, would be dispatched to take his statement. After all, it was nine-thirty in the morning. He hoped that would increase the chances of them sending the type of officer they had.

Lieutenant Bloom felt the dull coldness of the ninemillimeter pistol at his head. He'd completely blown it. No partner. No backup. He'd already made so many mistakes he couldn't believe it. He let himself be guided to a chair.

"Do you know what you're doing? You heard me when I introduced myself, didn't you? You know I'm a police officer." Ichabod shoved the detective down into an armed cherry wood dining room chair. "I'm Lieutenant Bill Bloom, Minneapolis Police Department. Do you understand that?"

Ichabod was also sweating now. Lieutenant Bloom was a big man. About 260 pounds of decaying muscle and gut. Luckily, though, the officer was in his midfifties and had already begun anticipating his retirement to Florida. He was only heavy, not necessarily much in the way of real resistance.

Ichabod slammed him down into the chair; there was a dull thud as his body came to rest there. His eyes opened wide and anger blazed.

There were strips of duct tape already lined along the table's edge. Ichabod plucked one and slapped it across Bloom's mouth, ending the cop's freedom of speech. "Shut up a minute. I know who you are. I was the one who called you."

He bound the officer's hands to the arms of the chair. His ankles to the legs. The cop expressed no further resistance. The duct tape and the gun that had bruised his head had their own calming effect.

Ichabod put the detective's gun on the middle shelf of his mahogany bookcase. He then picked up a pack of cigarettes from the floor and after a brief search for a match, which he found under the sofa, he lit one and began pacing in front of the bound man.

"I realize that I am standing here, in an apartment in Uptown Minneapolis, two blocks away from one of the finest urban lake systems in the entire world, and at my feet is a dead man." He blew a lungful of smoke into the air. At the mention of dead man, Bloom's eyes widened. He swiveled his head to the right and stopped as he spied the...

The Multicultiboho Sideshow. Copyright © by Alexs Pate. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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