It says a lot about the new Ishmael Reed novel, Juice!, that the first thing I wanted to do after finishing it was to do a news search for “O.J. Simpson.” Reed finished writing the book on January 2, 2011 – extraordinarily recently, for a novel with a street publishing date of April 4, 2011 – but up until the second he sit “send” on the manuscript, he scoured the headlines and loudmouthed cable TV channels, alert for evidence of O.J.-bashing or O.J.-obsessing.
Juice! is a story of O.J. obsession narrated by a self-confessed O.J. obsessive named Paul Blessings, nicknamed Bear. If that doesn’t sound like enough to spin a 336-page novel around, then Juice! is not for you. Though it has other pleasures, these other pleasures tend to dwindle along the way, and on any page the narrator can disappear into yet another rant about the racist media’s obsession with O.J. Simpson, the murder of his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and his many legal entanglements. Much of this novel is scathing media criticism – I wouldn’t even say “disguised as a novel” – just scathing media criticism.