A Review of Negrophobia: An Urban Parable

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By Andrew Dombalagian

In his performances, stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt sometimes eulogizes the open-mic comedy clubs of the 1980s, because it put upstart comics who believed that they were "on the edge" in their place.  Oswalt mentions how drug addicts, derelicts, transients, and mentally ill would walk up to the microphone and spout their infirm, disturbed minds at the audience, to great applause. 
     "Wow, I guess I'm nowhere near the edge," Oswalt summarizes.
     It is a shame that novels and screenplays do not have open-mic nights, because Darius James would put whole generations of novice writers to nauseating shame with his disgustingly humorous prose.  Poet, humorist, and self-described African-American messiah Paul Beatty lists James among his exclusive list of figures that redeem modern comedy.  I cringe with expectant wonder, curious about what James might have to say about Beatty in his own works.
     In his "urban parable," Negrophobia, Darius James takes sociopathic aim at anything and everything Americans hold dear.  Even if you live in the most isolated cave in Siberia and have never even met someone black, there will still be something in this caustic attack on racism for you to find distastefully, and delightfully, offensive.  James even prefaces his screenplay, cross-dressing as a novel, with a quiz for readers to find if they are "Negrophobic" that will leave none unperturbed.
     James introduces the reader to Bubbles Brazil, a bimbo as white as they come, with nothing on her mind but blonde hair and stereotypes about blacks.  Her favorite snacks are pot, and chocolate figurines of Elijah Muhammad, grasping his genitals, adorned with suggestive flecks of white chocolate.  Depending on your point of view, it either gets much better or much worse from here.  If your sense of humor hasn't been chained and raped by politically correct propaganda, you will be in line for a hell of a satiric ride.
     Bubbles lives in a hellish parody made of every fearful image and stereotype that White America can concoct about blacks and life in the ghetto.  Even before Bubbles plunges into her drug-fueled, nightmarish journey into negrophobia, one wonders how much of her life is embellished by her racism.  Bathroom ambushes by Aunt Jemima's Flapjack Ninja-Killer Queens from Hell are the sort of fevered flourishes that James paints in Donald Goines Senior High School (and maximum security prison).
     After an attack by her maid - think Mammy, but with drugs, perversion, malice, and no token Oscar - Bubbles is rushed through tableaux of racism, containing one outrageous display of stereotypes and satire after another.  There is no way to adequately describe the images and illusions that James conjures up to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.  Some features in this show:
The zombie of Malcom X singing Timewarp
Driving a stake through Walt Disney's heart
Fallout shelters from exploding Negroes
Yes.  All of that is true.  I cannot make this up.  I wish I could, but I cannot.  This is all part of the bizarre brilliance that Darius James expresses in Negrophobia.  Far beyond the gross out comedy and blind racial tropes that pollute television and cinema these days, this 1992 book contains subtle art hidden in scenes of a racist blonde vomiting worms all over the Church of H. Rap. Remus.
I reiterate once more, I cannot make this up.
By combining figures from pop culture, African-American history, and an arsenal of slurs, James creates a vile representation of how enmeshed racism and its distorted imagery of black culture have become with the nation's consciousness.  Every scene, every nightmare, every imp, and every trip represents the dark and twisted nature of what race has become in America.
Do not let the vulgarity, to use the cleanest word possible, distract you.  There is sex.  There is violence.  There are drugs.  There is racism.  There are disturbing images.  Am I describing this book, or am I describing life?  Both answers are correct.  No matter how horrible or obscene, there is nothing in this book that is not found around us everyday if we actually open our eyes.
Ok, maybe there aren't 500-foot-tall cybernetic Negroes in real life, but that is beside the point. 
Nevertheless, that is probably why this book throws off so many with its unashamed depictions of sex, drugs, violence, and discrimination: the nightmare is real.  The issues in this fantastic screenplay/novel, whose special effects budget would have to be stupendous, if filmed, are real problems that must be faced in reality.
     In fact, the truth of these issues is many times for brutal and horrific than any imagery James can conjure in his text.  The fear and disgust that people will find in reaction to this book are instinctual defense mechanisms, trying to protect their lethargic consciences from being shocked into action.  As much as this novel vigorously revolts against the same shit that African-Americans have been struggling with for so long, it also revolts against the sluggishness that the majority wraps around itself, like a filth-ridden blanket, to save itself from the responsibility of having to fix this shit.
     There's not much more to say that Darius James doesn't say in his own...unique way.
     Read Negrophobia, throw up, take a piss, then get out there and fix the damn world.

James, Darius. Negrophobia. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992. Print
$8.95
174 pages

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