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Trey Ellis

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In 1988, Trey Ellis’ first novel, Platitudes, won the 25-year-old writer widespread acclaim for its comic energy and the way it deftly lampooned what he has called ”the Afro-baroque, the purple prose of books like The Color Purple.”

This half-hour profile of Ellis, offered under the banner of PBS’ Black History Month, is as fast and funny as Ellis’ prose whenever the writer himself is spouting opinions or reading from Platitudes.

But whenever producer-interviewer Tom Vitale is asking one of his softball, fawning questions, Trey Ellis goes limp.

Ellis, for all his youth, has clearly thought through his literary positions. He aligns himself with a new tradition of black satirical artists that includes writer Ishmael Reed and black rock acts such as Living Colour and Fishbone. Vitale should have pressed Ellis more closely for further explanations of his rebellion against the conventional, socially conscious black novel.

Ellis’ comments and his work deserve an A, but this show? C

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