Slang and colloquial speech have rarely been so creative. It is as if the common man (or his anonymous spokesman) would in his speech assert his humanity against the powers that be, as if the rejection and the revolt subdued in the political sphere would burst out in a vocabulary that calls things by their names: ‘head-shrinker’ and ‘egghead,’ ‘boob tube,’ ‘think tank’ and ‘beat it,’ “dig it’ and “gone man gone,’” Herbert Marcuse wrote in The One-Dimensional Man.

And it may turn out that the great restive underground language rising from the American slums and fringe communities is the real American poetry and prose, that can tell you the way things are happening now. If this is not the case, then it is mighty strange that a whole new generation exploits this language, in what White racist critics call “folk rock lyrics.”

Ishmael Reed

Ishmael Reed, “Introduction” [1969], 19 Necromancers from Now (Garden City: Double Day/Anchor Books, 1970), p. xiv.

Bryce Wilner
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