7/21/2005

Norman Mailer's 'Reality'

Norman Mailer is attributed to being the innovator of the non-fiction novel, however, his latest comments in Rolling Stone shows his vision is poor, outdated, and racist. And worse, he can't count.

AAJA reports:

"The upcoming issue of Rolling Stone magazine features an interview with author Norman Mailer, who calls New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani a 'kamikaze' who 'disdains white male authors.' He claims her editors can't fire her: "With discrimination rules and such, well, she's a threefer: Asiatic, feminist and, ah, what's the third? Well, let's just call her a twofer. They get two for one. She is a token.'"

It would be too easy to dismiss his comments about this Pulitzer Prize winning critic as the bitterfruit of a man scorned or simply the rages of a nearly-dead, cannonized white guy, but hey now, this is the 21st Century, and if this sort of Asian American bashing is going to happen, then we have to address it face on for the ugliness it is.

The following letter was sent by AAJA's Media Watch Committee today:

June 29, 2005

Jann S. Wenner
Editor and Publisher
Rolling Stone
290 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10104-0298

Dear Mr. Wenner,

Calling out Norman Mailer as a racist, after he described Michiko Kakutani as a "kamikaze," would be easy. But that's not why we're writing.

We take greater offense at his reference to her as a "two-fer" and a "token" because she's "Asiatic, feminist," which essentially diminishes the accomplishments of all women and journalists of color. It insinuates that media companies keep people like Ms. Kakutani on staff simply because they are women and minorities-a dangerous, dismissive and, certainly, misguided notion. (Mr. Mailer must be aware that Ms. Kakutani won the Pulitzer prize for criticism in 1998.)

On a side note, with Mr. Mailer's firm grasp of the English language, we're sure he knows that "Asiatic"--like "Oriental"--has long been considered an offensive word to describe Asians or in the case of Ms. Kakutani, a Connecticut native, Asian Americans.

On behalf of the 2,000 reporters, editors and industry executives of Asian descent represented by the Asian American Journalists Association, we'd like to thank Rolling Stone for exposing the bigotry of one of America's prized authors.

To Mr. Mailer, we'd simply like to say: Shame on you.

Sincerely,

Esther Wu, AAJA National President
Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, AAJA National Media Watch Representative

I thank Wu and Tan for making a stand and being clear in revealing Mailer's shortsightedness. The "shame on you" seems a bit cliche as to be almost quaint. I, however, would simply like to say, Mr. Mailer, I think you're an idiot.

(thanks to The Carbonator for passing this along)

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