Bill Cosby on Ishmael Reed's Writing Habits

By Barry Beckham:


"Do you know Ishmael Reed” he asked.

I shook my head to acknowledge that I knew theCalifornia writer and activist who had founded a small press called I Reed Books.

“Well he doesn’t even have an office. Or a typewriter.” Then one of the world’s greatest comedians began to move his hands as if in a skit. “He keeps everything downstairs in his basement. He goes to the shop…” He moved his hands to show the movement of Ishmael on his way to the shop.

“And he rents a typewriter.” Then, according to Cosby, apparently tickled with the dramatic opportunity, Reed goes down stairs and types (Cosby shows him typing), and then returns the rented typewriter to the shop. He looks at me as if I have understood the demonstration. And then he makes it clear what he is saying. “You need to struggle more,” he tells me.

Now this same genius with the classic slapstick persona—the pained twisting of his facial muscles into the most innocent look. As if whatever he said should be accepted most sympathetically while eyes and mouth seemed to be headed in two different directions, forming that marvelous deadpan. You were expecting a blink or a chuckle. But then you wind up chuckling yourself, while still waiting for him to break those unmoveable facial features into the smile that you have on your face.

Fri, 24 Aug 2012