Author: Kevin Mims

Tourist Journalism Versus the Working Class

A few days before the Fourth of July, British comic John Oliver used the pulpit of his US infotainment show, Last Week Tonight, to deliver a lengthy monologue about the depredations of Amazon.com. His specific complaint was that Amazon doesn’t treat its employees very well. According to Oliver, among the indignities that the company has heaped upon its workforce are two separate instances in which a canister of bear repellant leaked in an Amazon warehouse. Oliver and his journalistic team also found former Amazon employees willing to complain on camera about working conditions in the company’s warehouses and fulfillment centers: they can get very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter; getting to the bathrooms sometimes requires a long walk; pregnant women get no special bathroom accommodations. Oliver’s researchers even uncovered an incident in which a worker had died on the job and her co-workers were told to carry on working in the presence of her corpse. Amazon disputes much of this, but I have no difficulty believing that incidents like these do …

Pop Fiction’s Rich History of #MeToo Drama

Lately, the very serious people who write about TV and film and books for publications such as the New Yorker and the New York Times have been tripping over themselves to heap praise on highbrow novelists, filmmakers, and screenwriters who have used their platforms to tackle issues such as rape and sexual harassment in the workplace in the wake of the #MeToo movement. To hear these writers rhapsodize about Susan Choi’s novel Trust Exercise or Lisa Hanawalt’s TV series Tuca and Bertie, one might conclude that these are the first creative endeavors that ask Americans to examine how unfair the contemporary workplace can be to women, how serious the threats of date rape and acquaintance rape are, and the many ways that powerful men such as Harvey Weinstein and Les Moonves can use their power to destroy the careers of subordinates who refuse their sexual advances. Writing in the New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum calls Tuca and Bertie “the latest in a deluge of TV series that feel like a direct response to the #MeToo movement, …

Goodbye, Herman Wouk

On May 17, American novelist Herman Wouk died, just ten days before he was due to turn 104. If Ernest Hemingway’s life and career had been as long as those of Herman Wouk, he’d have been alive as recently as 2003 and he’d have published a book in 1999. Had John Steinbeck lived and worked as long as Wouk, he’d have seen the re-election of George W. Bush and have published a book around the same time as Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. Had Charles Dickens lived as long as Wouk, he’d have witnessed the arrival of World War I. Had Arthur Conan Doyle lived as long, he might’ve heard the Beatles first single, “Love Me Do,” on the radio in his final days. Rudyard Kipling would have been able to purchase a copy of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Wouk not only outlived all of his Lost Generation heroes (notably Thomas Wolfe and Hemingway), but also all of his literary contemporaries of the Greatest Generation (Malmud, Welty, Salinger, Bellow, Mailer, Cheever, Vonnegut, Vidal, Heller). …

Banned Books Week: 10 Pop Fictions to Annoy the Politically Correct

Banned Books week is upon us again. Traditionally, this is a week during which liberals congratulate themselves for resisting concerned parents who wish to have controversial books pulled from school libraries and/or curricula. These tend to be books that support a liberal or progressive worldview. Last year’s list of the most banned books included Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (challenged by some parents because of sexually explicit material), Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why (frank discussion of teenage suicide), Raina Telgemeier’s Drama (inclusion of LGBT characters), Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner (sexual violence and promotion of Islam), Alex Gino’s George (inclusion of a transgender character), and so forth. Books that support a conservative worldview (Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Glenn Beck’s The Overton Window, William F. Buckley’s The Red Hunter, anything by Tom Clancy) are rarely pulled from school curricula because they rarely make it into the curricula in the first place. My modest proposal for this year’s Banned Books Week is that we all spend a little time out in public …

“Dear Millennial….”

Dear Millennial, I am a 60-year-old white male without a college education. Make of that information what you will. I can lay no claim to be the least racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic person you’ve ever met, but I do try to treat people—regardless of their creed, color, gender, orientation, etc.—the way I’d like to be treated. And, to be honest, I probably deserve some of the scorn I often see heaped onto working-class white male Boomers without a college degree. I haven’t been smart with my money. I work in a low-paying service-sector job. I’ve eaten more red meat and rich desserts than is good for anyone, and I like things that every enlightened individual knows are awful: the Eagles, pork chops with mint jelly, the paintings of Bob Ross, Jerry Lewis movies, Billy Joel, cargo shorts, TV shows like Blue Bloods and Castle and Two and a Half Men. Nevertheless, I am writing to ask you to go easy on me and on my formative cultural influences. The reason for this letter is, …

Cultural Appropriation and the Children of ‘Shōgun’

This summer marks the 25th anniversary of the completion of James Clavell’s epic Asian Saga—six novels, totaling 6,240 pages in paperback, published between 1962 and 1993. The high point of the saga was the publication in 1975 of Shōgun. Set in the year 1600, it chronicles the exploits—nautical, martial, political, and erotic—of John Blackthorne, a British seaman who finds himself shipwrecked in feudal Japan along with a few other survivors of the Erasmus, a Dutch pirate ship he helped pilot. By order of publication, Shōgun is the third book of the series, but by internal chronology it is the first. It is also, far and away, the most commercially successful book in the series. By 1980 it had sold more than 6 million copies and become the source of one of the most successful TV miniseries in history. It was preceded by King Rat (1962) and Tai-Pan (1966). It was followed by Noble House (1981), Whirlwind (1986) and Gai–Jin (1993). Grady Hendrix’s 2017 book Paperbacks From Hell admirably chronicles the way that a single novel—Ira Levin’s …