Jodi Picoult Does Not Like Kakutani Liking Franzen

Jonathan Segura -- August 19th, 2010

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?

20 thoughts on “Jodi Picoult Does Not Like Kakutani Liking Franzen

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  4. LL

    Maybe if Jodi Picoult put as much energy into improving her fiction writing as she does in trying to get the rest of the world to lower the bar for her she might one day achieve a review in the New York Times.
    I can’t believe she’s not embarrassed to be throwing such a publicly solipsistic temper tantrum.

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  6. BW

    yeah. All that male anxiety. Where DOES it come from. Still…can’t help smelling the faint taint of sour grapes in the Picoult/Weiner flap. Tho I have to wonder how or if the NY Times would’ve reviewed George Eliot. If they’d had the privilege of course.

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  8. Linda

    Yep. This post, while it otherwise has some interesting arguments, loses all credibility at “flip-out.” Picoult no more “flipped out” on Twitter than you “flipped out” here.

    It ought to be enough to demonstrate she’s wrong, without inventing a picture of her as hysterically ranting when that’s absolutely false.

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  14. JMS

    Jodi Picoult is a highly successful writer of middlebrow potboilers or “problem novels.”

    It was ever thus, that the bestselling writers of middlebrow fiction (Louis Bromfield, frinstance) regretted the attention given to writers of slightly more experimental but not too experimental fiction (Ernest Hemingway, frinstance). Ms. Picoult, like Mr. Bromfield, will be able to console herself lavishly on her royalties, however.

    I am confused by your implication that Jodi Picoult doesn’t self-identify as “white”; what is her racial/ethnic self-identification? If she does not self-identify as “white” that is not something that I as a reviewer of books am aware of, and I would be surprised if Kakutani were any more aware of it than I.

  15. Shayera

    Gee, Zacks 1 and 2, condescending much? A woman writer too threatening for you?
    And Mr. Segura, one tweet does not a “flip-out” make.
    Also, nice of you to frame it in “women are hysterical” terms. Excellent. <- That's sarcasm, by the way. I know it doesn't often translate in comments. Just wanted to make it quite clear to you.

  16. csb

    She’s got a good point… finally time magazine had to choose a writer to grace its cover… took 20 years for an intellectual to figure it out over there that it’d been 20 years. You know, one to find out, one to talk about it, and then one to make a decision.

    I don’t know if they were white men… but any idiot will do!

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