Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Free-Lance Pallbearers: An Irreverent Novel” as Want to Read:
Blank 133x176
The Free-Lance Pallbea...
Ishmael Reed
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Free-Lance Pallbearers: An Irreverent Novel

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  196 ratings  ·  22 reviews
Ishmael Reed's electrifying first novel zooms readers off to a land they have never heard of, a crazy, ominous kingdom called HARRY SAM--a never-never land so weirdly out-of-whack that only reality itself could be stranger. Venturing into this risky realm of a thousand contradictions is the quixotic Bukka Doopeyduk, a crusading, liberal fellow who is eager--if not always r ...more
Paperback, 155 pages
Published January 1st 1989 by Atheneum Books (first published 1967)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 375)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
MJ Nicholls
Ishmael Reed is another unread unsung hero of American literature, relegated to a footnote in the canon for not being white and macho and writing about what happens behind closed doors in the wheatiest windiest nooks of the Midwest. His debut novel (this one) announces his important, original voice among the muscles and machismo. Reed’s language combines the free-wheeling rhythms of jazz and Beat poetry with erudite slapdown of Swift’s satire and Joyce’s tireless lexical invention. The first fif ...more
Harry Sam does not love us. If he did, he'd come out of the John and hold us in his lap. We must walk down the street with them signs in our hands. We must throw back our heads and loosen our collars. We must bawl until he comes out of there and holds us like it was before the boogeyman came on the scene and everybody went to church and we gave each other pickle jars each day and nobody had acne nor bad breath and cancer was just the name of a sign.
The Harry Sam oaths

All is not well in the kingd
Nate D
May 19, 2014 Nate D rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: skeptics, dissidents, hysterical realists
Recommended to Nate D by: You are invited to a bad trip at the Harry Sam Motel
Acerbic maniacal vision of 60s America amok. In another novel, the zaniness might become off-putting, but here it seems just about spot-on. And that the frenzy of the prose and action managed to maintain for an entire book is pretty impressive in it own right.

I'm also confident that the old 1969 Bantam edition I found a Book Thug Nation has the best possible version of the cover art:

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
""Check out Ishmael Reed. He knows more about it than you'll ever find here." --Thomas Pynchon in Gravity's Rainbow, page 588." --Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Another off of Dennis Cooper's Top 50 Novels list (which I've read, I think, about 1/2 of so far). I enjoyed this as I knew absolutely nothing about it going into it, and was blown away by the language, how the dialogue works. Another reason this book warrants reading is the level of satire is far beyond the simplicity of the satire the pervades contemporary society, everywhere from South Park to The Daily Show. This shit is harsh & intense. But it's also hilariously funny and fast.
The madcap adventures of a man named Bukka Doopeyduk. Clearly a satire about race and politics, I wonder if a less fantastical story with the same satirical sensibility could have been published in 1967.

I was worried that the dialect would be hard to read, but I found it reasonably easy to understand (easier than, say, a William Faulkner novel).

I'm not sure if I'm finished with this story, or if I'll need to reread and re-review at a later date. It was strange, in a good way.
Oct 18, 2010 R.John rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: black power militants and other crusaders of justice
Shelves: fiction
Reed does not get the respect nor the addition to the canon he should have years ago. This is a marvelous book which makes Pynchon's CRYING OF LOT 49 look like a picture book for beginner readers. The dialect is masterful, the distortions adapt, and the message clear. Reed manages to weave a poetry around his satire, which does not lessen its devastating leveling of all it gazes upon. As a reflection of the post Kennedy Assassination years in America, I can think of no novel that rivals its gras ...more
The Free-Lance Pallbearers is Ishmael Reed's first novel, originally published in 1967. The story follows Bukka Doopeyduk as he comes into full consciousness of how exploitative life in HARRY SAM (otherwise known as O-BOP-SHE-BANG or KLANG-A-LANG-A-DING-DONG) can be. Wildly satirical and full of bizarre violence, sick jokes, and excremental fantasies, this novel is a wonderful introduction to Reed's oeuvre, as well as sixties-era satire in general. I don't think The Free-Lance Pallbearers measur ...more
Dale Jr.
Having just finished this book, I'm not quite sure what to say about it. It feels like the entire read was an LSD-laced, cartoon dream. There are definitely some humorous portions, many portions of "what the hell did I just read", and a dictator who's been sitting on the toilet for the past 30 years. Bukka Doopeyduck, our main character and tour guide through the odd, surreal, contradicting world of HARRY SAM, is one hell of a character mixed among an entire cast of loopey lunatics. If for nothi ...more
Justin Howe
Imagine a secondary world created to resemble New York City circa 1965 and with the character motivations and internal physics of a Looney Tunes cartoon. That’s what you’ll find here. Bukka Doopeyduk lives in HARRY SAM a kingdom ruled by a former used car salesman who hasn’t left the bathroom in thirty years. Things happen and mayhem ensues.
Adryan Glasgow
I really want to like Ishmael Reed, despite the general misogyny that pervades the world of his books. This first novel, however, is underdeveloped. It is too much under the influence of Kafka and Reed's full literary voice isn't yet established. Read Mumbo Jumbo instead.
Omkar Kudalkar
A great work of Satire by Ishmael S. Reed. I agree "Nothing, nobody ,it seems that, remains aloof from Reeds' satirical barbs."
Dash Williams
It took awhile for me to catch on to what the Hell is going on in this book, but when I did I was rewarded.
This is just what I needed after reading a lot of po-faced sci-fi.
Curt Lorde
A prophetic, crazy adventure, that I can see a Dave Chappelle carrying to glory. This is Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man's revenge. Nutcases, the willfully manipulated, the blatantly rewarded stupid, and the glitz bounded mediocre folk in this novel and unfortunately,reality, will see themselves in the characters. And don't you want to follow the adventures of a man named Bukka Doopeyduk?
Phil Overeem
The idea behind this book is way more enjoyable than the reality. I was excited to take it on, having LOVED Reed's MUMBO JUMBO, but it is really wearing. may be that it's just dated.
Amy Ruth
I might have to scan in my old paperback--it's irritating for a book designer to have the wrong cover indexed on Goodreads!
Michael Gossett
Read Reed's 'Mumbo Jumbo' first--if you like it, you'll like this.
Crazy and delightful. Read this after reading Invisible Man.
Sidik Fofana
SIX WORD REVIEW: You flabbergast of a satirist, you.
Shellie Rogers-Taylor
Shellie Rogers-Taylor marked it as to-read
Aug 23, 2015
Christopher Klein
Christopher Klein marked it as to-read
Aug 20, 2015
Emma Stocker
Emma Stocker marked it as to-read
Aug 18, 2015
Stephanie McGarrah
Stephanie McGarrah marked it as to-read
Aug 18, 2015
qtasha marked it as to-read
Aug 17, 2015
Daniel marked it as to-read
Aug 12, 2015
C marked it as to-read
Aug 12, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 12 13 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Singular Pleasures
  • Island People
  • Memories of My Father Watching TV
  • Aliss at the Fire
  • Siamese
  • The Magic Kingdom
  • The Jade Cabinet
  • Night Soul and Other Stories
  • Breaking and Entering
  • The Inquisitory
  • Cartesian Sonata and Other Novellas
  • In Partial Disgrace
  • The Book of Jokes
  • Man in the Holocene
  • Percival Everett by Virgil Russell
  • Dukla
  • Op Oloop
  • The Word Book
Ishmael Scott Reed is an American poet, essayist, and novelist. A prominent African-American literary figure, Reed is known for his satirical works challenging American political culture, and highlighting political and cultural oppression.

Reed has been described as one of the most controversial writers. While his work has often sought to represent neglected African and African-American perspective
More about Ishmael Reed...
Mumbo Jumbo Flight to Canada Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down Japanese by Spring The Terrible Twos

Share This Book