Killens’s Africa is a caricature that might, in other circumstances, be irritating. But The Minister Primarily isn’t a book about Africa. It’s about America, and the author has a lot to say about his homeland ... Killens has read his Shakespeare. With the surprises in its plot and its quadrilles of mistaken identities, The Minister Primarily is right up there with The Tempest and The Comedy of Errors. The choreography of his set pieces has an effulgent warmth that is as passionately expressed as it is disarming, creeping up on the reader with such skill you hardly realize you’re being stalked by a master. Killens’s writing about sex, of which there is a lot, both of the emotional tsunami kind and of the nothing-but-lust kind, should be used in creative writing courses across the country ... There is a generous contouring to his love for African America that is filled with pride. But the most powerful message that Killens has to impart is that lessons come in all shapes and sizes. Humor and satire are often more powerful than sermons or political finger-wagging. The Minister Primarily probably could not be written today. Amid the increasingly toxic discourse about race and politics, we have forgotten what we ever learned about laughter being the best medicine. More’s the pity.
Razor-sharp dialogue, absurdist situations, caricatures of politicians, activists, and celebrities all comprise Killens’ epigrammatic send-up of twentieth-century politics and the illogical societal realities that stem from racism and global affairs of state. Though bitingly witty and full of laugh-out-loud humor, this novel remains true to what legendary satirist Ishmael Reed describes in his foreword as Killens’ mission, 'adumbrating the racist evil that dogs the American soul.' Vividly and skillfully written, this vibrant, long-missing novel, published 34 years after the death of this Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, civil rights activist, and key figure in the Black Arts Movement, is certain to be a timeless classic of satirical fiction.
This posthumously published novel by Killens (1916–87), a founder of the Black Arts Movement, is a major addition to his oeuvre ... Killens casts a broad net, skewering everything from the heady early days of African independence to the pan-Africanism of the period among Black Americans, and, most sharply, race relations in the United States. This is a brilliantly scathing, outrageous satire as important today as when it was written.
Though set sometime in the 1980s, Killens’ novel comes across as a compendium of social and political phenomena in American race relations, whether it’s Pan-Africanism, the Ku Klux Klan, or, of course, the Black upper middle class. Most if not all are treated with scathing irreverence and acerbic wit. At times, the shakiest element in Killens’ situation comedy is the extent to which Johnson’s masquerade holds up as his iteration of the African leader becomes something of a folk hero among Black Americans and a target for White racists. And there are times when the plot gallops ahead of Killens’ ability to control it. But even at its most unruly, the go-for-broke narrative style grows on you, and the author himself occasionally materializes in a walk-on role, lending the book a metafictional feel ... An audacious final testament of an underappreciated craftsman.
Killens cleverly satirizes 1960s American politics in this sharp thriller ... Killens is pointed in his barbs ... Throughout, Killens maximizes the potential of his plot with outrageous humor. Readers will be glad to find this gem unearthed.