The NYTPicker has some context on Jodi Picoult’s Twitter flip-out about the rave review the New York Times gave to Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, The Most Important Novel Ever in the History of Novels Ever. Basically, Picoult took a swipe at the NYT & Michiko Kakutani for praising the book, which was written by a “white male literary darling.” Picoult, you’ll note, is none of those things, and, says NYTPicker, laments “her own feelings of mistreatment by the NYT,” which has panned her books.
Picoult’s feelings aside, the “white male” argument is, in this case, a sieve. Go ahead. Have a quick look-see at the stuff the NYT’s reviewed lately. See? Lot of stuff in there getting nice reviews, much of it not written by white dudes.
But, as for this particular white male literary darling’s relationship with the NYT, and, specifically, Kakutani, I think it might be worth stepping back just a touch. Like, back to 2006, when Kakutani shredded Franzen’s The Discomfort Zone, calling it an “odious self-portrait of the artist as a young jackass: petulant, pompous, obsessive, selfish and overwhelmingly self-absorbed.” A couple years later, Franzen struck back, calling Kakutani “The stupidest person in New York City.”
Can’t you feel the chumminess? The warmth? The mutual admiration?
But, let’s open this up a bit. One of my favorite Kakutani pans of a white, male literary darling is her take-down of Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones, which contains this gem of a graf:
The novel’s gushing fans, however, seem to have mistaken perversity for daring, pretension for ambition, an odious stunt for contrarian cleverness. Willfully sensationalistic and deliberately repellent, “The Kindly Ones” — the title is a reference to the Furies, otherwise known in Greek mythology as the Eumenides — is an overstuffed suitcase of a book, consisting of an endless succession of scenes in which Jews are tortured, mutilated, shot, gassed or stuffed in ovens, intercut with an equally endless succession of scenes chronicling the narrator’s incestuous and sadomasochistic fantasies.
There are plenty of others out there. What’s your favorite?