Americans love being conned (Ishmael Reed)

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It was Bo Shmo and the neo-social realist gang. They rode to this spot from their hideout in the hills. Bo Shmo leaned in his saddle and scowled at Loop, whom he considered a deliberate attempt to be obscure. A buffoon an outsider and frequenter of sideshows.

Bo Shmo was dynamic and charismatic as they say. He made a big reputation in the thirties, not having much originality, by learning to play Hoagland Howard Carmichael’s “Buttermilk Sky” backwards. He banged the piano and even introduced some novel variations such as sliding his rump across the black and whites for that certain effect.

People went for it. It was an all the newspapers. He traveled from coast to coast exhibiting his ass and everything was fine until the real Hoagland Howard Carmichael (the real one) showed up and went for Bo Shmo’s goat. He called him a lowdown patent thief and railed him out of town. You would think that finding themselves duped, the impostor’s fans would demand his hide. Not so, Americans love being conned if you can do it in a style that is both grand and entertaining. Consider P.T. Barnum’s success, Semple McPherson and other notables. A guy who rigs aluminum prices can get himself introduced by Georgie Jessel at 100 dollars a plate but stealing a can of beer can get you iced.

So sympathetic Americans sent funds to Bo Shmo which he used to build one huge neo-social realist Institution in the Mountains. Wagon trains of neo-social realist composers writers and painters could be seen winding up its path.

From Ishmael Reed’s 1969 novel Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down, which I am loving the hell out of.

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