The Terrible Threes

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Terrible Threes by Ishmael Reed.

Ishmael Reed The Terrible Threes

I read Ishmael Reed’s The Terrible Twos some twenty years ago, and this sequel to it picks up with very little pause. So I guess I wasn’t an ideal reader in this case. This surreal satire, mostly about US politics and religion in the 1990s, written in 1988, is still hilarious. The ways in which Reed fails as a prognosticator are in some measures consoling, and in others alarming. One that particularly stood out for me was the vilification of Ronald Reagan by the Neo-Christian successors to the Republican Party, on the grounds that he was a liberal who bargained with the Soviets. In our “real” world, of course, Reagan was a “liberal” according to the standards of 21st-century politics, but he is still the beloved saint/mascot of the ever more reactionary Republicans.

The book is an incredibly fast read, full of thinly-disguised parodies of public figures and clever twists on cultural tropes. It is also, like its predecessor, a Christmas story. Reed points out that the name “Dickens” actually comes from “Nicholas” somehow, and he makes a fair try at redeeming an assortment of characters more vile than Ebeneezer Scrooge. But in the end, things still look to be deep in “the Terribles,” i.e. the episodes of public shock that commenced with the assassination of President Kennedy. Aye, they are that. [via]