Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Ishmael Reed

Ishmael ReedIn this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in the publishing industry, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

Ishmael Reed is not only one of my favorite writers (fiction, poetry, theater and a wide range of nonfiction), he is an editor, publisher, literary activist and one of the founders of the Before Columbus Foundation, which has sponsored the American Book Awards since 1980.  His latest publishing venture is Ishmael Reed Publishing Company, sponsoring the work of a diverse set of writers from many continents, including an online magazine, Konch.  He blogs for the San Francisco Chronicle at

His own books include the now classic Yellow Back Radio Brokedown, Mumbo Jumbo, The Freelance Pallbearers (a book I like to re-read at least once every five years), Flight to Canada as well as an amazing number of collections of essays, plays and poems, and recently, Powwow: Charting the Fault Lines in the American Experience, an anthology he co-edited with Carla Blank.  Forthcoming books include The Fighter and the Writer: Two American Stories (Random House), and Brawls, a new collection of Ishmael’s always provocative and on point essays. Ishmael Reed is a massively prolific writer in a wide range of forms.

You can read a complete biography of Ishmael here.  It’s pretty impressive, but listen to this interview I did with him to get a real sense of what he has done to support and promote the full breadth of writing and creativity in this country (and around the world).  Ishmael Reed gives voice to the heart and soul of the river of creativity that flows out of and through the great American continent, and never fails to tell truth to power, expose alternative views of accepted wisdom, and makes us think long and hard about who we really are.Fiction Anthology_0  This conversation covers a wide range of topics, and includes much about the history of independent publishing in the last several decades, and much more.

Blan_0609807846-330 A guest appearance by editor, writer and professor Carla Blank near the end of our talk.










Carla Blank