cover image Japanese by Spring

Japanese by Spring

Ishmael Reed. Atheneum Books, $20 (225pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12072-5

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.)