A few months ago I did an impromptu search through the New York Times archives to find empirical evidence that lead book critic Michiko Kakutani has, indeed, developed a distaste for fiction. And for all of 2006, the only two novels she liked were Dana Spiotta‘s EAT THE DOCUMENT and Dave Eggers‘ WHAT IS THE WHAT. But 2007 must be a better year already because Michiko’s in a much better reviewing mood of late: this month alone, she’s alloted rave reviews (you know it’s a rave when “stunning” and “dazzling” are overused) to Richard Flanagan’s THE UNKNOWN TERRORIST and Michael Chabon‘s THE YIDDISH POLICEMAN’S UNION. Earlier, she had good things to say about Lionel Shriver‘s THE POST-BIRTHDAY WORLD (about “an idiosyncratic yet recognizable heroine about whom it’s impossible not to care”) Lauren Fox‘s STILL LIFE WITH HUSBAND (“a delightful new voice in American fiction”) and Martin Amis‘s THE HOUSE OF MEETINGS (“arguably his most powerful book yet”). Of course, the crank-meter was still way high for reviews of books by Yasmina Reza, Howard Norman and Jane Smiley, but even in those pieces the vitriol seemed somewhat muted.
What’s going on? Could Michiko be changing her tune about fiction? Is her editor giving her better books to read? Because this happy critic mood is a little unnerving, frankly…
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