Prufrock's Page

Monday, April 10, 2006

Deconstructing Michiko

Heroine or harridan? Opinion has always been divided when it comes to the influential New York Times literary critic Michiko Kakutani. The fact that she's somewhat of a recluse hasn't helped matters -- see, for example, the slightly mean-spirited (though hilarious) parody, "I Am Michiko Kakutani". Now that Ms Kakutani has entered her 25th year as a reviewer, Ben Yagoda (author of the New Yorker history About Town and the more recent The Sound on the Page) gives us his take:

"It should be clear to anyone who has read Kakutani's reviews that she has an estimable intelligence; she backs this up with what must be many real or virtual all-nighters in which she digests every word ever published by the writer under review. She takes books seriously, a valuable and ever-rarer trait. Furthermore, in my observation, she is more or less right in her judgments most of the time."


"...Kakutani is a profoundly uninteresting critic. Her main weakness is her evaluation fixation. This may seem an odd complaint—the job is called critic, after all—but in fact, whether a work is good or bad is just one of the many things to be said about it, and usually far from the most important or compelling."


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