Jaya Sundaresh in Current Affairs:
Look, we already know that Ishmael Reed hasn’t seen Hamilton.
The New York Times called Reed out for it. So did the New Yorker. So did some stray Hamilton stans on Twitter, disgruntled that the legendary playwright, who has written a satire of their beloved play, had the gall to criticize without taking the time to luxuriate in the original, the way they have.
They can all calm down.
“I’ve read the book,” said Reed, who sounded a little surprised that this was even up for debate when I interviewed him a few weeks ago. He’s extensively studied the script that Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote. That’s probably one better than most Hamiltonfans, whose familiarity most likely comes through the original soundtrack, have managed to achieve.
“I’ve been criticized for going after this multibillion dollar juggernaut,” said Reed with a laugh. “Well, Gone With The Wind was a global phenomenon as well.” Look how that turned out.
It would be a mistake to underestimate Reed, whose 10th and latest play, The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda, had its first reading at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on the Lower East Side a few weekends ago. The Haunting rips apart Hamilton, Miranda’s homage to the first Secretary of the Treasury. Reed has been writing literature and non-fiction since the 1960s, and is widely regarded as one of the most important African American authors.