NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 16.2: Fall 2016 - Page 10

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William Demby in his studio at his IBM typewriter . Rome , 1961 .
After Steve Cannon and I published Demby ’ s Love Story Black ( Reed , Cannon & Johnson , 1978 ), the late Joyce Engleson , a literary editor at E . P . Dutton picked it up . Dutton published it , because Engleson , a literary editor , had some power there ; people like her are vanishing . Besides , there being a wave of profit-maximizing conglomerates that insist that books by Blacks become bestsellers ( a leading Black writer reflecting this trend said that she wanted her books to go down like a chocolate fudge sundae ), because of such squishy fiction , Black male and women writers who are part of a 200-year old tradition of challenging whichever impediment stands in the way of Black progress , have taken a big hit in the marketplace . It ’ s all right to cater to readers who spend a lot of time in beauty parlors , but this has become the standard fare of Black literature . The highly literary craftsperson , Terry McMillan , has also cited gangster fiction as another kind of Black fiction being marketed . In this fiction , like the corporate Hip Hop , the creators cynically provide a perverse readership with comfortable stereotypes . But Black male writers have taken the most serious hits from bourgeois feminism , which — according to Harriet Fraad , writing in the magazine Tikkun — co-opted a feminism that was working class and integrated ! ( my italics ).
Middle class movements that borrowed the strategies of the Civil Rights Movement had to designate Black males as pariahs , in order for appeals to their oppression to succeed . The Norton Anthology of African American Literature , edited by Henry Louis Gates , Jr ., claims that Black men are the new racists and the real oppressors , not the White male patriarchs whose policies have sent hundreds of thousands of women to Mexico to seek abortions and driven families to find their food in garbage cans .
Fortunately , because of new technology , Black writers are in a different place than where they were in the 1940s , 50s , and 60s . When New York publishers turned down their works , Chester Himes and Richard Wright were finished . I know . Chester Himes lived in my house ; and recently , critics have hailed his novel , If He Hollers , as the best Los Angeles novel .
With new technology , which is still rapidly developing , there are more ways to gain an audience . This might improve the prospects of writers , Black men , and women whose readers don ’ t require that their fiction go down like a Hot Fudge Sundae .
We have our own presses . e-Books . Kindle . We have Black Renaissance Noire , in my opinion , the most eclectic arts magazine in the country . [ My company will be publishing King Comus later this year .]
Demby is an artist . He is a writer ’ s ’ writer . I could see him juggling clauses in his mind , until they fall in the right places . Turning vocabulary over in his thoughts , until the right word is selected . Though King Comus has an interesting story line , one of the pleasures of reading Demby is to watch a great artist at work . n
— Ishmael Reed
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