Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: February 19, 2019
NegrophobiaAn Urban Parable
by Darius James, introduction by Amy Abugo Ongiri
With a new preface by the Author
Darius James’s scabrous, unapologetically raunchy, truly hilarious, and deeply scary Negrophobia is a wild-eyed reckoning with the mutating insanity of American racism. A screenplay for the mind, a performance on the page, a work of poetry, a mad mix of genres and styles, a novel in the tradition of William S. Burroughs and Ishmael Reed that is like no other novel, Negrophobia begins with the blonde bombshell Bubbles Brazil succumbing to a voodoo spell and entering the inner darkness of her own shiny being. Here crackheads parade in the guise of Muppets, Muslims beat conga drums, Negroes have numbers for names, and H. Rap Remus demands the total and instantaneous extermination of the white race through spontaneous combustion. By the end of it all, after going on a weird trip for the ages, Bubbles herself is strangely transformed.
In this social-media era, when we are more intent than ever on isolating things that offend and outrage, Negrophobia revels in its own outrageousness, and thus is more of a tonic now than it was almost three decades ago. It neither blinks nor recoils at the stereotypes, insults, and presumptions that have been used to cage and subdue African American self-esteem, but compels its readers to confront rather than retreat from or smooth over the retro Jim Crow imagery….American literature has seen the ascent of talented young black writers who aren’t willing to settle for parochial or hidebound conceptions of who they are and what they should say…and it’s a fine time to be reminded that crazy, willful acts of hoodoo storytelling such as Negrophobia helped make this renaissance possible.
—Gene Seymour, Bookforum
Luridly funny and unsparingly smart, Negrophobia is American arcana of the highest order. And like all truly cool books, destined to forever be ahead of its time.
Darius James is a great writer.
I opened James’s book only to topple into hell. In fact, Negrophobia is the black version of American Psycho.
—Dany Laferrière, Los Angeles Times
I read Negrophobia when I was still in grad school. . . . It was one of those good but rare occasions when I thought there might be one other person in the world that would get what I was doing.
—Kara Walker, DB Artmag
Comic, manic, and amazing, [Negrophobia] tells more about American race relations than all of the walking dead suburban experts, academics, and think tank whores who tell their fellow suburbanites about how it feels to be black.
Jarring, outrageous images hurtle from nearly every page of this postmodern vivisection of the contemporary African American condition.... There is imagination and wicked humor in all of this, as well as some piercing insight.
This is a novel of exposure, not solution. Those willing to take the ride will find language and imagery that provide an understanding of everything offensive and American. To see Bubbles dragged through the mire of racial and sexual taboos is to experience the reclamation of the icons and stereotypes that are the signposts of relations among Americans. It's not an altogether pleasant experience. No one who reads Negrophobia is playing in the dark -- just lost in it. The novel, however, is no more unpleasant an experience than, say, having a police baton swung at your body, or having a steel-tipped boot kick you a few hundred times after you've been dragged out of your tractor-trailer. With its feet firmly planted in the satiric tradition of Voltaire Ishmael Reed, John Kennedy Toole, and Okot p'Bitek, James's book is both timely and necessary.
—Christian Haye, The Village Voice
Wild, non-stop phantasmagoria...In style, theme, and tone, the work of performance artist James is somewhat reminiscent of Ishmael Reed or Amiri Baraka, but his dialog is snappier. The vibrant prose makes for lively reading. Highly recommended.
A pop-schlock phantasmagoria that owes as much to William Burroughs as it does to S. Clay Wilson. James's raucous debut is by far the best novel to emerge from New York's Lower East Side literary scene.
Darius James is a great writer.
Darius James is one of the funniest writers in America, and one of the most serious. His subject is the big one: slavery; his questions are the big ones: who is slave to what?
Comic strip, sci-fi flick, vaudeville, black-faced minstrel show, and lyrical poem all rolled into one. Negrophobia is a funky, raunchy, angry, hilarious nightmare vision of black culture. A ferocious send-up of African-American stereotypes and white racism. Darius James bursts into literature with a wild, surrealistic imagination.
Darius James is a dazzling scenarist, a wanton imagist and a nubile perpetrator of the great felony on new literature. This is a writer of blazing intensity. Forever may he wave.
This book is not a novel but a curse which will explode in your mind and cause your bottom to drop out. Of all the neo-hoodoo cosmogonic jesters, Darius James proves himself to be the most promising.