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

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  253 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews

"For all the talk of the black aesthetic, few black novelists have broken sharply with the traditional devices of the realistic novel. One writer who departs from such conventions, however, is Ishmael Reed. . . . The Free-Lance Pallbearers uses an explosive combination of straightforward English prose, exaggerated black dialect, hip jargon, advertising slogans and long, h

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 1-10)
Rating details
Sort: Default
MJ Nicholls
Jul 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humorous-fiction
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
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favoritism

Reed deserves a helluva lot better than a flash-mob review, but I either read or review. I choose latterly. This is farce taken to its absolutely illogical extreme; doubtlessly indebted to Pynchon. Pynchie would return the compliment by means of a shout-out in Gravity's Rainbow. This, Reed's first, has much more commonality to Lot 49 than the one about banana missiles and a murderous cephalopod. But that, like Jesus, is just alright with me
Nate D
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Hot damn! Ishmael Reed goes all out in his debut novel, a wildly imaginative, paranoiac, outrageous farce--a nightmarish comedy--and he pulls it off amazingly well. It seems that hyperbolic madness is his forte, and he does best when his writing is unrestrained.

Of course, maybe as an author it would be difficult for him, or for anyone, to make an entire lifelong career out of writing in this style... probably no one wants to be entirely defined as a writer by his or her one, first book. So it se
Jul 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 25, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Reading Ishmael Reed reminded me of the first time I came across Barry Hannah. I had no idea what I was reading, but it was entertaining.

I read this as a satire and a what-the-fuck type hodgepodge of ramma-lamma-ding dong, but also read it as something I've never quite read before. I enjoyed it and will go for more.
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is some wild stuff, surreal and strange but also entertaining and highly intelligent. I'm sure a lot of references went over my head, but it wasn't pretentious by any means and I got more than enough to enjoy the book. I just kind of came to the book out of nowhere and was left reeling a bit. Highly impressed, but still reeling a bit.
Oct 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Loop
  • Singular Pleasures
  • Aliss at the Fire
  • Siamese
  • The Book of Jokes
  • Island People
  • Best European Fiction 2012
  • Passages
  • Breaking and Entering
  • Memories of My Father Watching TV
  • A Bad Man
  • The Inquisitory
  • Night Soul and Other Stories
  • The Word Book
  • Cobra and Matreiya
  • Dolly City
  • Esplendor de Portugal
  • Aberration of Starlight
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...