Friday, July 01, 2005

The International Michiko Kakutani Reader's Homepage

Yes, just who is Michiko Kakutani?

NEWS FLASH FROM LONG AGO, 1999: She just won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism for 1998.

SEE BELOW for Yomiuri Shimbun news flash from New York.

NOW BACK TO this ORIGINAL bogsite, first written in December 1997, before this Pulitzer business came up. Sorry for the inconvenience of a long scroll down.

CONTINUE: Some astute readers of this 1997 blog will know her as the famously reclusive book reviewer for the New York Times. Yes, in fact, Ms. Kakutani has been a leading book reviewer at the TIMES for about 20 years.

But very few people in the publishing industry know anything about her, although she has enormous clout at the Times, where she can make or break a book. She seems to particularly loathe the novels of Norman Mailer --OOPS! --(see recent www.MobyLives.com item here:)

Mailer, unaware of Eggers' dictum, pisses in the very small and fragile ecosystem that is the literary world . . . July 1, 2005 !!! (TIME PASSES, LIFE GOES ON)

After attacking Michiko Kakutani in a Rolling Stone interview, Norman Mailer has himself come under attack by Dallas Morning News reporter Esther Wu, who is president of the Asian American Journalists Association. The interview is not available online, but as a Daily Telegraph article by Harry Mount recaps, Mailer said of The New York Times' lead book critic, "She is a one–woman kamikaze. She disdains white male writers, and I am her number one favourite target. She trashes it just to hurt sales and embarrass the author. But the Times editors can't fire her. They're terrified of her. With discrimination rules and such, well, she's a three-fer: Asiatic, feminist and, ah, what's the third? Well. Let's just call her a twofer." He also called her a "token." Now, as Lloyd Grove reports in his Lowdown column for The New York Daily News, Wu has written a letter to Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner saying, "Calling out Norman Mailer as a racist . . . would be easy. . . . 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 . . . To Mr. Mailer, we'd simply like to say: Shame on you." Mailer tells Grove the letter is "an excellent example of high-octane political correctness." La Kakutani had no comment. {NOTE: she never does, see below}

....and Philip Roth, although this is seen by some fellow critics as a sign of her intelligence and insight. So who is this mystery woman whose reviews appear all over the Internet at many, many sites, but whose personal life remains shrouded in mystery. One source told us recently that she is the daughter of a retired math professor at Yale University who is well-known for his "fixed point theorem," whatever that is.

A source at a New York publishing magazine told us that she heard that Ms. Kakutani went to Yale as an undergraduate where she had a brilliant career. Remember this name, Michiko Kakutani! [This was written in 1997!] She may be the most famous New York Times book critic of the 1980s and 1990s, yet nobody seems to know anything about her.....and....... 2005 now!

Not that it matters, really; her reviews are what count. But it would be interesting to know who "La Kakutani" really is, her background, her education, how she arrived at the Times, her connections.

A well-known book critic at a U.S. newspaper told us once that "Kakutani is incompetent. I don't want to know anything about her!"

Professional rivalry, maybe?

This story grows more interesting ... By the way, Ms. Kakutani is the author of a book herself, a collection of previously-published New York Times articles about writers artists, titled "The Poet at the Piano" and published in 1988. The book is now out of print, OOP, but amazon.com says it can try to find a copy if you want one.

If anyone knows more about Ms. Kakutani, send us an email today. [d_h_888 AT yahoo DOT com] We've searched all the search engines, to no avail.

Or leave a comment below on this blog.

Only reviews, reviews, reviews -- hundreds of them. But no biographical information is available, such as birthdate, birthplace, nationality or address. Hmmm, a mystery within a mystery. We've emailed a query to the front desk at the Toronto Public Library and we're still waiting for an answer...

And while we were waiting for our answer, along comes the Pulitzer Prize Commmittee giving its 1998 ward for criticism to who else but La Kakutani, with a sharp dispatch from our friend Toshio Mizishima at the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper bureau in New York.

On April 17, 1998, Mizushima-san wrote in a story in English headlined "Kakutani wins Pulitzer for 'passionate' reviews"

"...Japanese-American book reviewer Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for criticism at the 82nd awards, which were announced Tuesday. Kakutani, 43, is known for covering a broad range of literature, including both fiction and nonfiction. In the April 10 issue of the Times, she reviewed a biography of former U.S. President Lyndon Johnson. Kakutani praised "American Pastoral" written by Philip Roth, saying it was the author's most intense work to date. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction on Tuesday. Judges referred to Kakutani's reviews as "passionate, intelligent writing on books and contemporary literature." Kakutani joined the Times in 1979 after writing for The Washington Post and Time magazine. She became a cultural writer specializing in book reviews in 1983. Born in the United States, Kakutani is the eldest daughter of mathematician Shizuo Kakutani, 86, an honorary professor in functional analysis theory at Yale University. Kakutani graduated from Yale as an English literature major. Her mother, Keiko, is a second-generation Japanese-American. Kakutani dislikes exposing herself to the public, the paper said, which--at her request--would not release any personal information on the reviewer. "

Michiko became a journalist because she wanted to tackle contemporary social problems," Prof. Kakutani said. "Although she had earlier faced self-doubt, I am very happy to hear about the prize."

SO NOW THE ENTIRE WORLD KNOWS ABOUT LA KAKUTANI!

Said another writer: "Michi won the Pulitzer a year ago and if she ever leaves the job she'll do it, as I did, for a better offer -- not because she's being "moved out"! The Times likes having influential critics -- however foolishly book publishers or theater producers may overreact to them -- and will work very hard to keep them at the paper. It's an important part of the NYT identity and always has been. Hope this answers your question."

So, who is Michiko Kakutani, the New York Times book reviewer with international clout?

For one thing, she won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism for 1998. Kakutani has been a leading book reviewer at the Times for about 20 years. But very few people in the US publishing industry know anything about her, although she has enormous clout at the paper, where she can make or break a book. She seems to particularly loathe the novels of Norman Mailer and Philip Roth, although this is seen by some fellow critics as a sign of her intelligence and insight. So who is this mystery woman whose reviews appear all over the Internet at many, many sites, but whose personal life remains shrouded in mystery.

One source said recently that she is the daughter of a retired math professor at Yale University who is well-known for his "fixed point theorem."

A source at a New York publishing magazine said she had heard that Ms. Kakutani went to Yale as an undergraduate where she had a brilliant career. She may be the most famous New York Times book critic of the 1990s and early 2000s, yet nobody seems to know anything about her. Not that it matters, really; her reviews are what count. But it would be interesting to know who "La Kakutani" really is, her background, her education, how she arrived at the Times, her connections. A well-known book critic at U.S. newspaper said by e-mail that "Kakutani is incompetent. I don't want to know anything about her!"

Professional rivalry, maybe? Kakutani is the author of a book herself, a collection of previously-published New York Times articles about writers artists, titled "The Poet at the Piano" and published in 1988. The book is now out of print, but amazon.com says it can try to find a copy if you want one. When the Pulitzer Prize Commmittee gave its 1998 award for criticism to Kakutani, Toshio Mizishima at the Yomiuri Shimbun bureau in New York wrote: "Japanese-American book reviewer Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for criticism at the 82nd awards. Kakutani, 43, is known for covering a broad range of literature, including both fiction and nonfiction. Judges referred to Kakutani's reviews as "passionate, intelligent writing on books and contemporary literature." Kakutani joined the Times in 1979 after writing for The Washington Post and Time magazine. She became a cultural writer specializing in book reviews in 1983. Born in the United States, Kakutani is the eldest daughter of mathematician Shizuo Kakutani, 86, an honorary professor in functional analysis theory at Yale University. Kakutani graduated from Yale as an English literature major. Her mother, Keiko, is a second-generation Japanese-American. Kakutani dislikes exposing herself to the public, the Times said, which--at her request--would not release any personal information on the reviewer. "Michiko became a journalist because she wanted to tackle contemporary social problems," Prof. Kakutani said. "Although she had earlier faced self-doubt, I am very happy to hear about the PULITZER prize." Michiko Kakutani is a New York Times book critic whose reviews appeared worldwide via the New York Times News Service. Born in Japan, she has lived most of her life in the USA and has become one of the most influential book critics in the nation. Her reviews may be seen by doing a search engine search under her name at any major search engine. Very good, very insightful.

I WROTE ABOUT MICHIKO KAKUTANIO AND LIVED TO TELL ABOUT IT [FROM SALON ONLINE] BY SUSAN LEHMAN ...

Deemed a particularly dimwitted form of self-destruction, writer after writer, at magazine after magazine, has over the years declined the opportunity to write about the New York Times' much-feared lead book reviewer, Michiko Kakutani. "I'm as dumb as a brick. That's why I keep doing things like this. That's why I keep committing professional suicide, again and again," says Paul Alexander, who wrote unflatteringly about Kakutani in last month's Mirabella and lived to tell the tale. In the profile, Alexander gathers up a nice array of savage commentary on the famously reclusive, famously controversial critic -- including remarks from rival critic Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post, who told Alexander he was so unimpressed with Kakutani that when he heard she won a Pulitzer, he wanted to send his back.

Alexander also includes a spicy bit from Gore Vidal, who recalls an interview with Kakutani. "

First question: 'You hate the American people, don't you?' 'No I hate the New York Times. They are not, you'll be amazed to learn, the same.'"

To Alexander's surprise, there was no fallout from the piece. "We know they read it over there, oh yeah, but we heard nothing from a soul. It was sort of spooky. I was expecting an angry letter or something."

But Alexander might want to time publication of his next book to coincide with Kakutani's summer vacation.

"Author gets too personal with Michiko Kakutani"

New York Times book critic puts the kibosh on flirty classifieds

By Craig Offman

Nov. 16, 1999

When novelist Leslie Epstein sent mash notes to New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani through the small classifieds at the bottom of the Gray Lady's front page, he intended them, he says, in a playful spirit. The critic, however, didn't want to play. Epstein's first feeler, which ran Oct. 29 on the front page of the Times, pleaded: "DEAR SWEET MISS MICHIKO K. -- Call your Leib Goldkorn."

On Thursday, the Times' advertising acceptability department received a call from Kakutani. She was upset about Epstein's campaign and demanded that the paper squelch his Nov. 15 ad, which was to read: "YOO-HOO! MY CUTE KAKUTANI! -- Leib Goldkorn is calling."

Two other ads bit the dust as well. Goldkorn is the bumbling 94-year-old protagonist of three of Epstein's books, most recently "Ice Fire Water," which received warm reviews in the Los Angeles Times and the Sunday New York Times Book Review. Kakutani had given her own stamp of approval to Epstein's 1985 "Goldkorn Tales." "Apparently she was unhappy and complained here," said Bob Smith, the Times' acceptability department manager. "Not to me personally, but complained. As we would do with any other person if their name is in an ad and they object, we got it out of there." What if Mayor Giuliani, who also figured in one of Epstein's ads ("WHO TOOK RUDY GIULIANI'S TOUPEE? -- Leib Goldkorn!"), demanded that the newspaper pull his name from the campaign, as he did over a series of New York magazine bus ads in 1997? "We try not to make judgments on hypothetical situations," Smith said. "Now, if you're talking about public officials, there's probably a different slant on it.

But in this case, here was a person who was clearly disturbed to have her name used this way, so we took it out." Did whoever initially signed off on the ads in October recognize Kakutani's name? "I can't speak for them," Smith said. In any case, if they didn't know who she was then, they do now. "Needless to say, at the time the ads were approved, we didn't have any idea that anyone would be disturbed by them," Smith went on, adding that he hadn't seen the ads himself before they were cleared.

Epstein, who spent nearly all of his $10,000 advance on the campaign (despite the suggestion from his publisher, W.W. Norton, that he invest in something more conventional), has been left bewildered, if not bereft, by Kakutani's response to his publicity stunt. "It's a parody of the 'Jewish women light your candles' ad," he says. "It's a parody of the personals ad." He expects to get at least $3,000 back for the cancelled ads. Before asking the Times for a refund, however, he suggested a series of replacement ads to Smith, one of which would have read: "MY LOVE -- Why do you wish to censor Leib Goldkorn?" The Times turned him down. Kakutani did not return a call for comment.

Ms. Kakutani never respons to public criticism, as is her right. Get over it!

"Author pitches woo to N.Y. Times critic Kakutani" His character thinks Michiko is Finnish.

By Craig Offman Nov. 11, 1999

Look at the tiny classifieds at the bottom of the New York Times' front page and you'll often find reminders to Jewish women to light their Sabbath candles. Lately, "King of the Jews" author Leslie Epstein has been using those little ads to light a bigger fire -- with New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani. In the Oct. 29 front-page classifieds, Leib Goldkorn -- the bumbling, unstable 94-year-old protagonist from Epstein's latest novel, "Ice Fire Water" -- implores the veteran reviewer to ring his bell: "Dear Sweet Michiko K. -- Call Your Leib Goldkorn." The indefatigable Goldkorn plans to send Kakutani another, more heated message on Monday, which will read: " Yoo-hoo! My Cute Kakutani! -- Leib Goldkorn is calling." In Epstein's latest novel, Goldkorn, a Holocaust refugee and novelist, is smitten by Kakutani, who gave him the most favorable review of his career. Goldkorn mistakenly believes that Kakutani, in reality of Japanese descent, is Finnish, and he fantasizes about being beaten by her in a sauna. At one bittersweet point in "Ice Fire Water," Goldkorn invites Kakutani to lunch at the Court of Palms in New York's Plaza Hotel to thank her for her review; when she shows up, the slightly deluded author mistakes her for a cleaning lady. Epstein, however, does not share his character's luck with the critic. He invited her to a reading in New York on Friday, but Kakutani -- famous in publishing circles for her reclusiveness -- didn't show. "There was one Japanese lady there, but I don't think it was her," Epstein said from his home in Boston. (Kakutani did not respond to requests for comment.) Epstein has spent almost $10,000 of his own money on Times front-page classified advertising for "Ice Fire Water." The debut ad read: "Jewish Women/Girls. Gentiles Too! -- Leib Goldkorn is back." The ads have referred not only to Kakutani, but also to New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former bathing beauty Esther Williams, who both make cameos in the novel. "The house was originally concerned that he was spending so much money on these ads when it could have been spent on more traditional venues," says Robert Weil, Epstein's editor at W.W. Norton. Epstein, it seems, has hit on an imaginative strategy to lure Kakutani into writing a review of "Ice Fire Water." However, although she praised his 1985 book "Goldkorn Tales," so far, Kakutani isn't biting. "He was very much hoping she would respond. He was very disappointed," Weil said. As much trouble as Epstein may have in getting Kakutani's attention, other reviewers have certainly taken notice. In the Los Angeles Times, Steven G. Kellman calls the novel a "masterly blend of the plangent and the preposterous" and Goldkorn "the Mr. Magoo of Holocaust survivors."

The New York Times Book Review lavished heavy praise on the novel -- and also used a cartoon analogy for Goldkorn. "Leib owes more to Pepe Le Pew than Don Juan," writes D.T. Max. Other book critics at the New York Times might want to check out the novel for different reasons. "Richard Eder has a big speaking part," Epstein said. "He's a hustler phone sex guy. His name is ***** Adder." The late Book Review editor Anatole Broyard, whom Epstein characterizes as "the worst critic who ever lived, I think," appears as Anatole Boudoir.

Another Times critic, Richard Bernstein, turns up as Kakutani's assistant who sends Goldkorn a note instructing him to meet Kakutani for that ill-fated lunch at the Court of Palms

(Fri Apr 28 8:19 AM EDT 2000) I__A M__M I C H I K O__K A K U T A N I
BY COLIN McENROE - - - -

What started as a bascially innocent college prank has gotten seriously out of hand, and, at the urging of the small group of people who know the truth, I have decided to come forward and admit it. I am Michiko Kakutani. Many people will have a hard time accepting the idea that a basically undistinguished middle-aged white man living in Hartford, Connecticut, is actually the brilliant, acerbic, reclusive, rarely photographed lynx-like New York Times book critic and Pulitzer winner. But I am. The recent disclosure that Riley Weston changed her name and adjusted her age from 32 to 19 in order to continue writing and acting in network television persuaded me that America is ready to hear my story. Also, I'm tired of being the skunk at the American literary garden party. Do you know what it took out of me to grab a whip and a chair, to go into a steel cage and get this whole Toni Morrison tiger under control? It's not as if I've been able to call in to my regular job at the insurance company and say, "Look, I've been up all night poking holes in the windy, specious, New Age utopian blather of some author you probably never heard of in my capacity as Michiko Kakutani. I'm going to be in a little late." The whole thing started at Yale in the winter of 1972 when my roommates and I made up the name as an all-purpose coinage. We'd answer the phone: "Kevin? No, he's not here. This is his roommate Michiko Kakutani." We'd use it as a catch-all for any nameless broken part of our stereo: "Aha! The problem's with the michiko kakutani." We'd use it, I'm embarrassed to say, as a metaphor for onanism. "What'd you do last night?"

POWERSBOOKS Kakutani of the Times by Bob Powers G21 Literary Critic To receive this article in Deutsch, Francaise, Italiano, Portuguese, Francaise, cut and paste the complete URL("http://www.g21.net/pbooks26.html "), then click here. Some months ago, a reader of my "Powersbooks" column here on G21 inquired if I knew anything about Michiko Kakutani, the acerbic and often cutting book critic for The New York Times. I didn't, except that she could skewer a book in a manner often unnecessarily cruel. Her attacks pissed me off, especially when the books she ripped happened to be ones I had enjoyed. The recent award of the Pulitzer Prize to Kakutani came as a shock. Having made many wrongheaded decisions over the years, the Putlizer judges did it again. The reclusive Kakutani, 43, an almost-never photographed critic, has been on the Times book staff since 1983. She maintains a moralistic tone that requires writers to adhere to her seemingly narrow standards of a moral life. Pulitzer judges frequently display little comprehension of what's worthy beyond the world of journalism. And they made a second questionable award this year in giving a Pulitzer to novelist Philip Roth for his less-than-impressive "American Pastoral." Folks who judge literary matters for the Pulitzer crowd could need basic instruction about doing this awards business. Or it may be that Roth was being rewarded for his long and distinctive career, rather than singled out for his most recent tome, a novel that drew carping from many distingushed critics. Years ago, the Motion Picture Academy handed Elizabeth Taylor an Oscar for one of her worst films, the execrable "Butterfield 8." Liz had been desperately ill that year, nearly died, and the Oscar voters apparently felt they'd unfairly overlooked previous good performances. So she got an Oscar. I went to The World Almanac to check past winners of the fiction prize. Usually the awards go to books that have sold well, which doesn't prove literary merit. Such lightweight novels as Allen Drury's political thriller "Advise and Consent" and Larry McMurtry's entertaining western "Lonesome Dove" are not novels that will endure in the annals of literature. Jane Smiley's "A Thousand Acres," an uneasy retelling of "King Lear," won't be remembered a few years from now. Saul Bellow won for "Humboldt's Gift," not his best work. Shirley Ann Grau won in 1965 for "Keepers of the House." Few remember her today. My lack of appreciation for the reviews of Michiko Kakutani and Roth's most recent novel are shared by others prominent in the field danbloom 0(Fri Apr 28 9:06 AM EDT 2000) Interview with USauthor LEslie Epstien: Q: You also use Michiko Kakutani, the New York Timesbook critic, as a character. Yes, I do. Prominently. Has she read Ice Fire Water? She claims not to have. Harper'smagazine published a whole chapter of the novel, and I know she was approached and she said, "Oh, I heard about it." But I think she must have read it. And I hope she enjoyed it. I think she's a great critic and she's treated gently in the book, unlike Anatole Broyard, who's turned into Anatola Boudoir; and Richard Eder, who's turned into ***** Adder; and the previous Goldkorncritic of mine in The New York Times, an envious chap, I think -- David Evanier -- he turns out to be Diva Evian in the book. So I have fun with my critics. Michiko's a different story.

She gave my previous books sensitive reviews, and naturally, every author falls in love with such a critic, and that love is expressed through Goldkorn. Just what is that Cammy? Another "device" for the derisive? Wolf has energy and ambition, but her mind is amazingly slack. It's as if she's frozen in the precocious but superficial brightness of adolescence, with her thoughts tumbling out in what a reviewer of her last book (Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times) rightly called "narcissistic babbling and plain silliness."

Wolf also has something else that belies your psycho-babble. She knows how to get her point across to Americans whose average intellectual capacity is exceeded when confronting the odds on a football bet. What would Japanese mindset reviewer Michiko Kakutani know about what is " babbling and plain silly?" And again you mention The New York Times as if it was a bastion of intellectual credibility. How candid of you -- and how treacherous to use the nation's foremost liberal newspaper to bolster your vituperative attacks on Ms. Wolf.

Michiko, Remember To Light Sabbath Candles: The November 26 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a strange ad campaign that ran briefly in The New York Times. At the bottom of the front page, spoofing the tiny ads that urge Jewish women and girls to light candles on Friday night, were appeals to the Times daily book reviewer Michiko Kakutani to call one Leib Goldkorn. One ad read, "YOO-HOO! MY CUTE KAKUTANI!" So who is this amorous Mr. Goldkorn? Actually, he is a fictional character, the hero of comic novels and stories by Leslie Epstein, most recently "Ice Fire Water: A Leib Goldkorn Cocktail," just published by W.W. Norton. The ads were planned and paid for by Mr. Eps tein himself and cost about $10,000, according to the Chronicle. In "Ice Fire Water," Goldkorn, a 94-year-old European Jewish 幦igr?musician and waiter with a Walter Mittyish inner life, asks Ms. Kakutani to lunch at the Plaza, but he fails to recognize her waiting for him because he thinks Kakutani is a Finnish name instead of a Japanese name and is looking for a blonde. The Times had approved a series of 10 ads -- some of which mention Mayor Giuliani and swimmer Esther Williams, who also figure in Mr. Epstein's book -- but pulled the campaign after only eight had run. Mr. Epstein told the Chronicle that a Times official told him Ms. Kakutani objected to the way her name was being used and requested that it stop. "I had no idea Michiko would be so humorless about all this," Mr. Epstein told the Chronicle. "I really respect her. I want to write her a note. Maybe I'll invite her to lunch."

Key West, Florida Friday, July 17, 1998

Sir, In reviewing Ron Rosenbaum's new book Explaining Hitler, which I have read and regard as a first rate study of myself and Hitler's other examiners, Michiko Kakutani (NYT, reprinted in Seattle Post-Intelligencer Jul.6) refers to me in just two words: "Hitler apologist."

Mr Rosenbaum devotes an entire chapter to my twenty years of research into Hitler and his satraps, and does not use those odious words himself. If Mr Kakutani had read the introduction to my biography Hitler's War (The Viking Press, 1977) he would know how ill-judged his insult was. Twenty years to write it -- and two words, by somebody who never read it, to dismiss it?

Yours faithfully, David Irving

======================================

washington review xxii3 - e. e. miller - what star ...of American book critics, Michiko Kakutani, in which she predicts... ...really significant. Of course, La Michiko wouldn't agree. She is called La Kakutani, La Michiko, Michi, Michiko ... America has a love-hate relationship with MK that no other book critic has ever attracted. It is a real cultural phenomenon, under-reported, whispered. Will the real MK please stand up? Rushdie, of course, has gotten a mild drubbing in the American press for his trash-cultural excursions in The Ground Beneath Her Feet. Several critics on this side of the Atlantic seem to consider rock & roll a rather low-rent subject for a distinguished novelist. Was he offended by, say, Michiko Kakutani's conspicuous thumbs-down in the New York Times? "Oh, no," insisted Rushdie. "Michiko is a weird woman who seems to feel the need to alternately praise and spank. So she gave The Moor's Last Sigh a fantastic review, and panned the book before that. In any case, I'm somebody who's been extraordinarily well reviewed, so I really can't *****."

un arranque de desprecio Michiko Kakutani del New York Times en un... ...el que no se le acredita a Ellis. Kakutani se queja de los personajes...

The American reviews have been so sour and testy that Vidal and his sympathisers have blamed the New York Times for pursuing a vendetta that dates back to its snuff job on Vidal's gay-themed novel The City and the Pillar in 1948. Vidal's sly mockery of Michiko Kakutani, the paper's leading book reviewer, may have goaded them into arthritic action. Reviewers today haven't lost the power to launch or impede careers. Michiko Kakutani at the Times may not write worth a damn; I doubt you could find a pair of startling sentences back-to-back in the tens of thousands she has pounded out in her Pulitzer Prize's winning career. But she isn't afraid to deliver judgments, often unpopular ones (e.g. Denis Johnson, Toni Morrison) with the literati.

And she is too anti/social to be considered corrupt. New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani began her review with a parody of Hemingway's style and ended with First Light should never have seen the light of day.


Jesus's Son, by Denis Johnson. Paperback. Harper Perennial. Short stories by a poet. A series of linked stories that transport the reader into a lush, extreme state of consciousness. "His mind [seems] at once clouded and made gorgeously lucid by these drugs," said NYTimes Critic, Michiko Kakutani.

Camille Paglia calls her a "yuppie feminist," and "one-note Naomi Wolf."

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times book critic, claims that she's "a sloppy thinker and incompetent writer." The Christian right would like her to burn in hell for her views on teenage sexuality. Women around the world buy her books by the millions.

And then there is the part about that ice queen... the book reviewer for the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani. That's a Finnish name isn't it?

QUOTE UNQUOTE: "No, I don't have her email address. I don't think anyone has. The odd thing is, I have always respected her as a critic. Only her pre-emptive strike against Salinger's generous gift of his wonderful Novella Hapworth 1967 really upset me. She is ten times smarter than all the other critics, has standards, is effective at pricking the bubble of inflated reputations, and is unfailingly gen4erous to the first novels of the young. No wonder Leib Goldkorn fell in love with her! But, you know, she apparently has her reasons for her wish for privacy ahnd reclusiveness. Isn't it just possible that even Leib should come round to honorig her wishes? "


THE great news for Nora Okja Keller came via fax from her agent. Yesterday's New York Times featured her first book, "Comfort Woman," in a glowing review by their leading book critic, Michiko Kakutani. The Times critic ended her review with, "Ms. Keller has written a lyrical and haunting novel. She has made an impressive debut." I'd said much the same thing when I read the book a couple of weeks ago, but it somehow doesn't have the same clout as Kakutani.

A LETTER NOTES: "When does your site go up, or is it up? When it does, let me know and I'll pitch it. As a Kakutani aficianado, you should pursue her one-time romance with Paul Simon (seriously).

....savaged by her fellow critics, who denounced her for being too cranky and ungenerous, particularly toward any novel (according to Salon's Dwight Garner) "that& #8212;sexually, morally—puts some sweat on her brow." In another article, Garner noted that Kakutani's Pynchon-like solitudinarianism "has piqued interest in her to the straining point." How sweaty or accessible a book reviewer may be, one would like to believe, should have absolutely nothing to do with her craft. Of course, if she were writing for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, we wouldn't be assessing her "craft" in the first place. But Kakutani's allure reflects more than her obvious cultural power. What is it about her that inspires this kind of reaction? One clue may lie in an ersatz confessional essay, entitled "I Am Michiko Kakutani," which was published last year on the Web site of David Eggers' journal McSweeney's. The article's author, supposedly an undistinguished white man, reveals that "the brilliant, acerbic, reclusive, rarely photographed lynx-like New York Times book critic and Pulitzer winner" is his alter ego, part of his ongoing mission to "expose American culture for the simpering, self-referential, pretentious fraud that it is!" There is plenty more of this kind of thing, leading one to believe that the true target of this satire is not the culture of breathless interest which surrounds Kakutani, but the reviewer herself. She takes her role as cultural mandarin, one is supposed to infer, too seriously. In bashing Philip Roth and John Updike for being dirty old men, for example, she proves how remote from ordinary human affairs she is. Small wonder, then, that we laugh when Epstein has Goldkorn shout "Kakutani! Let us have a coition!" To be sure, the Times takes Kakutani too seriously. In the citation that accompanied the submission of her criticism to the Pulitzer jury, she is described as employing a Keatsian "negative capability" by which "she leaves herself—her biases, her preoccupations, her past history—out of her reviews, and presents us with something close to a pure critical intelligence: fearless, disinterested, and responsive." This is just award-speak, though; surely Kakutani doesn't believe that she's a medium for the pure spirit of criticism. Or does she? It seems Kakutani has become, despite what appear to be her best efforts to the contrary, precisely the kind of self-reflexive media celebrity she's spent the past 16 years deflating. Or is her victimization at the hands of novelists, critics, and assorted wise-asses just the final proof of everything she has been saying all along? By Joshua Glenn / \hermenautics In the "Story" section of the April issue of Harper's, novelist Leslie Epstein's English-mangling nonagenarian alter ego Leib Goldkorn becomes obsessed with real-life New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani. Imagining her to be an enormous blond Finn, he writes to thank her for having favorably reviewed his book 12 years earlier; Kakutani agrees to meet with him. When Goldkorn arrives at the restaurant, however, he ignores the " black-haired Oriental" who smiles shyly and waves at him ("I have no time to engage, with this Nipponese cleansing lady, in banter"), and calamity ensues. It's funny stuff, but is there something larger at work here? Goldkorn, after all, is hardly the only member of the American literary scene given to wild speculation about the elusive reviewer's personal life. When Kakutani won the Pulitzer Prize last year, she was savaged by her fellow critics, who denounced her for being too cranky and ungenerous, particularly toward any novel (according to Salon's Dwight Garner) "that& #8212;sexually, morally—puts some sweat on her brow." In another article, Garner noted that Kakutani's Pynchon-like solitudinarianism "has piqued interest in her to the straining point." How sweaty or accessible a book reviewer may be, one would like to believe, should have absolutely nothing to do with her craft. Of course, if she were writing for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, we wouldn't be assessing her "craft" in the first place. But Kakutani's allure reflects more than her obvious cultural power. What is it about her that inspires this kind of reaction? One clue may lie in an ersatz confessional essay, entitled "I Am Michiko Kakutani," which was published last year on the Web site of David Eggers' journal McSweeney's. The article's author, supposedly an undistinguished white man, reveals that "the brilliant, acerbic, reclusive, rarely photographed lynx-like New York Times book critic and Pulitzer winner" is his alter ego, part of his ongoing mission to "expose American culture for the simpering, self-referential, pretentious fraud that it is!" There is plenty more of this kind of thing, leading one to believe that the true target of this satire is not the culture of breathless interest which surrounds Kakutani, but the reviewer herself. She takes her role as cultural mandarin, one is supposed to infer, too seriously. In bashing Philip Roth and John Updike for being dirty old men, for example, she proves how remote from ordinary human affairs she is. Small wonder, then, that we laugh when Epstein has Goldkorn shout "Kakutani! Let us have a coition!" To be sure, the Times takes Kakutani too seriously. In the citation that accompanied the submission of her criticism to the Pulitzer jury, she is described as employing a Keatsian "negative capability" by which "she leaves herself—her biases, her preoccupations, her past history—out of her reviews, and presents us with something close to a pure critical intelligence: fearless, disinterested, and responsive." This is just award-speak, though; surely Kakutani doesn't believe that she's a medium for the pure spirit of criticism. Or does she? It seems Kakutani has become, despite what appear to be her best efforts to the contrary, precisely the kind of self-reflexive media celebrity she's spent the past 16 years deflating. Or is her victimization at the hands of novelists, critics, and assorted wise-asses just the final proof of everything she has been saying all along? Somewhat more hopeful is his relation with the New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani. Kakutani admired ''Goldkorn Tales'' when the book came out in 1985, and wrote with affection of its protagonist. L. Goldkorn has not forgotten. He has conceived a crush on her. Because of his shiksa goddess syndrome and the many K's in the critic's name, he assumes she's a Finn, thus an Aryan. He dreams of rough play in the sauna. (''The worst accomplishment of the Nazis is that they have turned us . . . into themselves,'' Goldkorn notes elsewhere.) He arranges a meeting at the ''Court of Palms'' at the Plaza Hotel. On the subway to Columbus Circle, a condom in his pocket, he rehearses Finnish greetings and lavishes pet names on his ''hellion from Helsinki.'' Kakutani's ancestry is in fact Japanese, and when Goldkorn meets her, he mistakes her for a cleaning lady, unable to see his chance for love.

The curse of the Pulitzer? WILL THE NEW YORK TIMES PUT BOOK CRITIC MICHIKO KAKUTANI OUT TO PASTURE ....NOW THAT SHE'S WON THE BIG PRIZE? NOPE!
BY DWIGHT GARNER

When the New York Times won its 75th, 76th and 77th Pulitzer Prizes this week, the paper celebrated in traditional fashion, springing for a full-page ad featuring (color!) photographs of its smiling, happy winners. There was Supreme Court correspondent Linda Greenhouse, who won for beat reporting, and a group shot of the paper's international affairs team, honored for its pieces on drug corruption in Mexico. The only winner who was missing from the party was the Times' reclusive book critic, Michiko Kakutani, who took home this year's prize for criticism. It's not surprising, really, that the Times doesn't have an updated head shot of Kakutani; recent photographs of the 43-year-old critic are nearly as hard to come by as those of Ruth Reichl, the paper's food critic, who tends to appear on local television only when her features can be electronically scrambled.

Kakutani doesn't circulate on New York's frenetic book scene, a fact that has piqued interest in her to the straining point; people who've met the diminutive critic are almost as much in demand at dinner parties as those who've shared straws over a milkshake with Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo.

The last image of Kakutani to pop up in print (that I've seen, anyway) was a black-and-white snapshot that appeared in Vanity Fair in 1988; the critic looked casually glamorous in a black ensemble, a cigarette dangling from her thin fingertips. Even the Times seems to have trouble getting Kakutani, who's been a daily critic at the paper since 1983, to sit for an interview.

When it sought a post-Pulitzer reaction comment yesterday, the best they could squeeze out of her was: "It feels unreal."

Kakutani's win didn't surprise many in the book world. The Times holds legendary sway with Pulitzer committees, and many felt she was long overdue for the award, particularly after Times critic Margo Jefferson walked away with it in 1995 after a relatively short stint in the book-crit lineup. (Jefferson quickly graduated to theater criticism; she's now a roving cultural essayist for the paper.) Noting Jefferson's Pulitzer win, Vanity Fair columnist James Wolcott said yesterday that he's often wondered if there's a curse connected to the criticism award. "Most people think Margo Jefferson went right downhill after winning her Pulitzer," he said. "We'll probably have no such luck with Michiko."

Curse or no curse, some observers wondered yesterday if the Times might use the occasion of Kakutani's Pulitzer win to gently rotate her from the daily book beat. "There seems to be a tradition

Kakutani doesn't circulate on New York's frenetic book scene, a fact that has piqued interest in her to the straining point; people who've met the diminutive critic are almost as much in demand at dinner parties as those who've shared straws over a milkshake with Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo.

According to John Leonard, the outgoing literary editor of the Nation, Kakutani "has a tin ear, and her reviews are lacking in generosity."

As for Kakutani's Pulitzer, Yardley said that he "doesn't read her with any real interest. I don't find her to be an interesting writer. She's conscientious, and she seems to be -- as James Wolcott once put it -- something of a perpetual graduate student."

"Michi won the Pulitzer a year ago and if she ever leaves the job she'll do it, as XXX did, for a better offer -- not because she's being "moved out"! The Times likes having influential critics -- however foolishly book publishers or theater producers may overreact to them -- and will work very hard to keep them at the paper. It's an important part of the NYT identity and always has been. Hope this answers your question -- "

36 Comments:

Blogger dan said...

July 01, 2005

Viewpoint

Author, critic and the power of a poison pen

Richard Morrison

As Norman Mailer launches a vitriolic attack on the doyenne of New York literary critics after she savaged one of his books, our correspondent says they’re less prickly in the performing arts, while well-known writers and reviewers recall their critical experiences.

SOMEONE once said that there are only two sorts of critics: those who want to be loved, and those who want to be hated. If Michiko Kakutani, chief literary critic of The New York Times, is of the latter inclination, she’s hit the jackpot. Norman Mailer, no less, has launched an astonishing attack on her, calling her a “one-woman kamikaze” who “disdains white male writers” and is unsackable because she is an “Asiatic feminist”.



Mailer’s ire, if not his misogynistic racism, is understandable. Buttressed by a newspaper notorious for its godlike self-righteousness, Kakutani seems to have put the boot into Mailer’s recent books with more than average venom.

So the 82-year-old author has now clearly decided to get his retaliation in first, before Kakutani is let loose on what may well be his final novel. That’s unusual. In nearly 30 years as a music critic, I’ve dished out a fair number of harsh words. But I can count on the fingers of one hand the times that a composer or performer has bitten back — in public at least. One of the performing arts world’s more dignified conventions is that those on the receiving end of a bad review either pretend that they haven’t seen it, or treat it as “unworthy of comment”.

But then, opera, ballet, music or theatre critics generally aren’t also moonlighting as singers, dancers, actors, violinists or playwrights. Nor do we hobnob socially with the likes of Placido Domingo or Harold Pinter. We try to maintain a healthy distance. That way, there are no ties of friendship, or favours to be returned.

Can the literary world claim the same objectivity? When one sees Novelist A reviewing Novelist B, his old Oxford tutor, who is himself reviewing Novelist C, who happens to be A’s lover ... well, to an outsider it all seems jolly cosy if not downright corrupt.

So when a literary critic dares to savage someone in the same mutual back-slapping club, the effect is akin to dropping a large boulder into a small pond. We saw that a few years back when the Observer’s Nicci Gerrard wrote a scathing critique of Jeanette Winterson — only to open her front door one night to find the indignant novelist and her partner demanding an explanation of this betrayal.

Kakutani’s “crime” is much the same. She dared to write what she thought. Now she faces the wrath of a legend. She can doubtless deal with that. What may be harder for her to swallow is unwittingly giving her bête noire his biggest publicity coup in several decades.

10:19 PM  
Blogger dan said...

Kakutani’s “crime” is much the same. She dared to write what she thought. Now she faces the wrath of a legend. She can doubtless deal with that. What may be harder for her to swallow is unwittingly giving her bête noire his biggest publicity coup in several decades.


DAVID SINCLAIR

Pop critic

I have certainly had a few occasions when things have come back to haunt me. I remember when I reviewed Roy Harper — it was a show he was doing in Croydon in the mid-Eighties. It wasn’t a good show, and I gave it a quite a harsh review. The next morning his wife rang and harangued me for about 10 or 15 minutes in a TV studio office where I was working. Then Harper followed that up with a 12-page letter basically condemning everything I ’d ever done. It finished with: “So Sinclair, you worm . . . ”


BEN MACINTYRE

Author and journalist

The pain of my first, really nasty review still smarts. It wasn’t just any old review, but the lead review in the books section of The Sunday Times. It wasn’t just any old reviewer either, but John Carey, the distinguished Merton Professor of English at Oxford. And it wasn’t just nasty, but long, sneering and strangely ad hominem from someone I had never met. Worst of all, it was partly right. My butterfly was broken on a vast wheel.

Naturally, I immediately began plotting complicated ways of murdering Professor Carey. My clever mother, who happens to live around the corner from the professor in Oxford, suggested that we sneak into his house and insert a pair of frilly women’s knickers into his laundry and wait for his wife to find them.

The pain was assuaged slightly when an old and generous friend sent me clippings of a similarly savage attack by Carey on one of his own books, and several critical assaults on Carey himself. “You are not alone,” he wrote. Whenever we spot a disobliging review of one of Carey’s books, we immediately send it to one another. This is true literary brotherhood: “The book of mine enemy has been remaindered,” goes the Clive James poem. “And I am glad.”

That was ten years and three books ago, but the experience was a salutary one: ever since, whenever I have been tempted towards scorn when reviewing a book, I have remembered my own early mauling, and paused. This self-restraint will not last for ever because one day, if there is a God in Heaven, I will be asked to review a book by John Carey. Until then, I am sticking with John Steinbeck’s advice on reviewers: “Unless the bastards have the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore them.”


JOHN BANVILLE

Novelist and reviewer

I remember Auberon Waugh used to review in the Seventies. He would review books on the basis of the author’s photograph on the back cover.

He gave one of my books a fairly sound kicking. He said that I had some small talent, which I should take comfort in: but he couldn’t see why I looked like a postgraduate student who had been passed up for minor professorship. To be honest, I thought his review was wonderful — and he showed great judgment. I don’t read my reviews at all now. In fact, you tend to find that your friends bring them up — but even then only the bad ones. I agree with Mailer. I know the person he is talking about and, to a certain extent, I sympathise.


A. N. WILSON

Author and reviewer

I remember reviewing a book by Richard Adams, who wrote Watership Down. He then went on to write a book about humans called The Girl in a Swing. I thought it was possibly the worst thing I had ever read. I met him seven years later and he proceeded to quote the whole review. He then asked me: “Would you consider that to be a fair review?” He then went on and on about it and eventually sent me around 20 letters on the subject. He even invited me to dinner where he quoted my review again. Then he said that we should put the matter behind us, which I thought was odd since it was Adams who had brought the matter up in the first place. The thing to remember is that it is very rare to have a critic say exactly what they think these days. Most critics will not tell you that the vast majority of books published are crap.


JOHN MORTIMER

Author

My first novel got a wonderful review by Peter Quinnell, and a woman novelist whose name escapes me, but there was also one by Val Gielgud (John’s brother) who at that point was working at the BBC. He said: “This writer indulges in the sort of piddling around the skirts of sex which passes for sophistication in suburban minds.” I’ve never forgotten that sentence, and it’s 60 years since he wrote it.

On the whole, though, I’ve got no complaints. I think generally the feeling when you read a review is relief at not having been savaged, at managing to escape disaster.


BERYL BAINBRIDGE

Author

I can’t imagine what Mailer’s up to. It can’t be about the money. If someone said my book was rubbish it wouldn’t bother me — I would take on board what they said. In any case, a review only lasts for the 20 seconds it takes to read it and most people don’t take it in anyway. It’s only writers who really notice what reviewers say.

In England you very rarely get a review like this against an established writer. A critic might say it’s not up to the usual standard, but because most reviewers write novels themselves, they’re unlikely to savage people.


WILLIAM DALRYMPLE

Author

When I wrote From The Holy Mountain, about a slowly dying civilisation in the Byzantine world, the New York Times mountaineering critic wrote a puzzled review about the lack of crampons. I am a reviewer as well as an author, and although there is no “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” mentality, there is a certain unspoken etiquette. If the author is someone I know I will look at the book to see if I like it before offering to review it: I am not prepared to give good reviews to bad books for anyone.

JOHN JULIUS NORWICH

Historian

When people review me I have one fear: that they are going to be academics. I write history books but I am not a scholar. So when a literary editor once handed my book on Byzantium to one of the world’s handful of experts on the subject, his review left me in a pink rash, splattered all over the ceiling. Apart from that, I have never had a real stinker, but I believe you should never talk back. I have become progressively less worried about what people think of my work these days; I don’t even keep reviews of my work any more.

ALAIN DE BOTTON

Philosopher

In some quarters, to have received “good reviews” forms an essential part of an author and a publisher’s self-esteem. The good verdicts are quoted on back jackets, and the bad ones are the source of wounds that endure for decades. But in other quarters, people will insist that critics are fools, that they are lazy and jealous — and that there’s no better way to know one has written a great book than to be told repeatedly by critics that it’s appalling. It might be worth bringing the subject down to earth by considering book reviews as just another kind of product evaluation, like the reviewing of cars or washing machines. A survey of washing machines in Which? will tell you in flat, unimaginative prose what every model does, whom it’s designed for and how well it carries out its chosen brief. The reader is not looking to be entertained or amused, he just wants to know what to buy and why.


BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE

Theatre critic

I wouldn’t say I was friends with playwrights, but I know a lot of them, and I don’t feel it disqualifies me from writing about them. I gave Harold Pinter’s The Betrayal a good review, and he invited me to his house. That would never be allowed at The New York Times. Once, I was standing on the King’s Road looking helpless and Tom Courtenay pulled up and offered me a lift. In New York I would have hesitated.

Critics here will be given drinks when they’re at the theatre. I really don’t think a glass of wine corrupts me. It’s all just more casual and easygoing here. On the other hand, I would also say that British readers pay less heed to the critics — we’re just temperamentally inclined to be less reverential. The New York Times theatre critic probably has more impact than all 12 of the major London critics put together.

ERICA WAGNER

Times Literary Editor

There’s a difference between criticism and ad hominem attacks. Michiko Kakutani is a remarkable critic and she always gives a careful justification for her opinions. Tibor Fischer’s famous critique of Martin Amis was simply an attack. I don’t think that helps anyone, including readers. Reviewing is subjective and not all critics will see a book in the same way — if they did it would be like living in a totalitarian state.

I don’t have much time for people who take criticism badly, and I say that as someone who writes books as well as reviews them. I’ve had some bad reviews, and I’ve written some negative ones. It really shouldn’t be taken that seriously because in 200 years’ time we’ll all be reading things that we didn’t think we’d be reading at all.

Of course, not everyone sees it that way, and I’m sure there are embarrassing moments at literary parties. In New York, writers and critics probably wouldn’t be at the same events nearly so much — I’ve heard that Kakutani never goes to book parties. But it’s just different here: it seems to be a much smaller world.

WHAT KAKUTANI SAID ABOUT...

The Spooky Art

by Norman Mailer

The effect of reading the book straight through is like going on a very long bus ride over a bumpy road, sitting next to a garrulous raconteur who never takes a nap and never pauses for breath and who seems to have no internal editor or censor in his head.


Magic Seeds
by V. S. Naipaul

Mr Naipaul's contempt for all the people he has created in this novel makes for a mean, stingy book — a book full of judgmental pronouncements and free-floating rage, and sadly bereft of insight, compassion or wisdom.


I Am Charlotte Simmons
by Tom Wolfe

Though Mr Wolfe tries to gussy things up with his hyperventilated prose and a noisy arsenal of narrative bells and whistles, most of his observations will be familiar to anyone who has been to college, sent children to college or gone to the movies.


My Life
by Bill Clinton

The book, which weighs in at more than 950 pages, is sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull — the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history.


Now Is The Time To Open Your Heart
by Alice Walker

If this novel did not boast the name of Alice Walker, who won acclaim some two decades ago with The Color Purple, it’s hard to imagine how it could have been published. It is a remarkably awful compendium of inanities.

11:06 PM  
Blogger dan said...

Dear Editor,

I was shocked, shocked to read about Norman Mailer's feud with Michiko
Kakutani. Whatever reasons Mailer might have to feel abused by her
critical powers at the Times (and he does seem to have some good
reasons), Mailer should not have singled out ethnic background, of all
things, as part of his criticism. Kakutani is not "Asiatic." She, a
Japanese-American, is just as "American" as he, a Jewish-American, is.
Shame on you, Norman, for having a go at the race card. You lose
there.

11:26 PM  
Blogger dan said...

Dear Editor, MobyLives.com,

Could it be? Do I really feel a glimmer of hope rise up in my gall when I read the remarks of Norman Mailer against Michiko Kakutani? Barely, but yes I do. Sure his remarks were brutal, but my god they felt good to read. And did you notice he said them in this country? The land where free speech is encouraged only if it doesn't hurt other people's feelings?

If Norman Mailer thinks Michiko Kakutani is bitter and that she takes it out in the literate ways he says, why shouldn't he say so? It strikes me as rank that a society which lovingly welcomes the stupidest opinions from the stupidest of people on the widest range of topics imaginable can be the slightest bit uxorious towards Mailer ("Shame on you, Mr. Mailer"). One almost imagines that people actually believe in the bullshit that self–help gurus and university liberal arts programs teach them — that they have a voice worth listening to, that their words are precious because they were formed by a human tongue, that nothing is unsacred except that which offends your undeveloped sensibilities. Well, the literary world can paint itself yellow and read in stentorian accents while drowning in a vat of 2% milk for all I care — let us write and write well — let us also criticize and criticize well — let us do both with a healthy mixture of love and hate. I may not enjoy Mailer's writing, but I admire the power and decisiveness with which he pursues his craft.

Even more than that I admire his ability to have an opinion that his personality informs; that he has dislikes and feelings that move him to speech; that he isn't afraid of being called foolish names like "chauvinist" or "racist" — names which lose their power the more we generalize with them. I don't encourage everyone to mimic his speech because that would be unproductive and as brutish as parrot–talk — a pointless fight club for litterateurs; but I do wish more people would actually speak their real thoughts — nay, I wish more people would have real thoughts.

Brian Robert Hischier
The Antipodes.com
Joliet, IL

11:35 PM  
Blogger dan said...

Her surgical vivisections of bloated authors have made the New York Times lead literary critic the bitch-goddess of American letters and won her a Pulitzer in 1998 to boot. Browbeating America's cultured class with its own code is Kakutani's contribution to the spiderwebbing crack in the stereotype of English-fracturing Asians. She did it all while keeping her inner -- or outer -- life from being limned by either the fawning or the fuming.

11:52 PM  
Blogger dan said...

United Press International

Mailer: Times book critic a 'kamikaze'

Jun. 30, 2005

Literary legend Norman Mailer has gotten himself embroiled in a nasty public squabble with New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani.
Kakutani has been unenthusiastic about Mailer's recent books. For example, she said "The Gospel According To The Son" is "silly, self-important and at times inadvertently comical" that reads like a mixture of the musical "Godspell," "The Last Temptation of the Christ" and a dumbed-down translation of the Bible.
Mailer responded with even more venom in an interview with Douglas Brinkley, whose profile of Mailer appears in the summer issue of "Rolling Stone."
"Kakutani is a one-woman kamikaze," Mailer said. "She disdains white male authors, and I'm her number-one favorite target. One of her cheap tricks is to bring out your review two weeks in advance of publication. She trashes it just to hurt sales and embarrass the author."

In the interview, Mailer suggested that the Times keeps Kakutani on because she is a "twofer" as a woman and a member of a minority group.

11:56 PM  
Blogger dan said...

photo of La Kakutani here:

http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/323790p-276748c.html

11:56 PM  
Blogger dan said...

Ethnic group is stormin'
over Norman










Norman Mailer tore into Times book critic Michiko Kakutani (below) in a Rolling Stone interview, and the head of the Asian American Journalists Association is firing back.




Talk about a kamikaze attack!
Norman Mailer yesterday undertook a cultural suicide mission, dive-bombing not only The New York Times but also a group of Asian-American journalists incensed over his strike on Times book critic Michiko Kakutani.

The 82-year-old novelist - who in an interview with Rolling Stone called the Japanese-American critic "a one-woman kamikaze" and "a token" minority hire - received a spanking yesterday from Dallas Morning News reporter Esther Wu, president of the 2,000-member Asian American Journalists Association.

"Calling out Norman Mailer as a racist … would be easy," Wu wrote to Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner. "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 … To Mr. Mailer, we'd simply like to say: Shame on you."

From his summer home on Cape Cod, Mailer dismissed Wu's letter as "an excellent example of high-octane political correctness."

Wu fired back: "Perhaps if Mr. Mailer were a little more politically correct, he would not be making such racist remarks."

In an exclusive statement to me, Mailer repeated his "token" charge and added that "authors do like to reviewed on publication day, not two weeks earlier with a heinously bad review … This is what Ms. Kakutani has been doing to my books for many years now, and that may not be politically correct, but it sure is foul."

Wu retorted: "But this has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with character assassination of two whole classes of people (women and minorities) by Mr. Mailer."

Wu also chided the author of the Rolling Stone piece, Douglas Brinkley, who made a big deal of Mailer's two Pulitzer Prizes (for nonfiction and fiction), but failed to mention Kakutani's 1998 Pulitzer for criticism.

"I think it's a shame," Wu told me.

Kakutani, through a Times spokesman, declined to comment.

11:57 PM  
Blogger dan said...

Writer has words for harsh critic
The Times
July 02, 2005
SOMEONE once said that there are only two sorts of critics: those who want to be loved, and those who want to be hated. If Michiko Kakutani, chief literary critic of The New York Times, is of the latter inclination, she's hit the jackpot.

Norman Mailer, no less, has launched an astonishing attack on her, calling her a "one-woman kamikaze" who "disdains white male writers" and is unsackable because she is an "Asiatic feminist".

Mailer's ire, if not his misogynistic racism, is understandable.

Buttressed by a newspaper notorious for its godlike self-righteousness, Kakutani seems to have put the boot into Mailer's recent books with more than average venom.

In a review of Mailer's The Spooky Art, Kakutani wrote: "The effect of reading the book straight through is like going on a very long bus ride over a very bumpy road, sitting next to a garrulous raconteur who never takes a nap and never pauses for breath and who seems to have no internal editor or censor in his head.









"There are moments when you are utterly benumbed by his self-absorption, his defensiveness, his capacity for wacky mumbo jumbo."

Of another Mailer book, The Gospel According to the Son, she wrote: "It is a silly, self-important and at times inadvertently comical book that reads like a combination of Godspell, Nikos Kazantzakis's Last Temptation of Christ and one of those new, dumbed-down Bible translations."

The 82-year-old author has now clearly decided to get his retaliation in first, before Kakutani is let loose on what may well be his final novel.

That's unusual. In nearly 30 years as a music critic, I've dished out a fair number of harsh words. But I can count on the fingers of one hand the times that a composer or performer has bitten back - in public at least.

One of the performing arts world's more dignified conventions is that those on the receiving end of a bad review either pretend that they haven't seen it, or treat it as "unworthy of comment".

But then, opera, ballet, music or theatre critics generally aren't also moonlighting as singers, dancers, actors, violinists or playwrights.

Nor do we hobnob socially with the likes of Placido Domingo or Harold Pinter. We try to maintain a healthy distance. That way, there are no ties of friendship, or favours to be returned.

Can the literary world claim the same objectivity? When one sees Novelist A reviewing Novelist B, his old Oxford tutor, who is himself reviewing Novelist C, who happens to be A's lover ... well, to an outsider it all seems jolly cosy if not downright corrupt.

So when a literary critic dares to savage someone in the same mutual back-slapping club, the effect is akin to dropping a large boulder into a small pond.

We saw that a few years back when The Observer's Nicci Gerrard wrote a scathing critique of Jeanette Winterson - only to open her front door one night to find the indignant novelist and her partner demanding an explanation of this betrayal.

Kakutani's "crime" is much the same. She dared to write what she thought. Now she faces the wrath of a legend. She can doubtless deal with that. What may be harder for her to swallow is unwittingly giving her bete noire his biggest publicity coup in several decades.

11:57 PM  
Blogger dan said...

Asian-American Journalists Angered by Jewish-American Mailer's Swipe at Jewish-owned NYT's Japanese-American Kakutani

By All-American E&P Staff
[Episcopalen & Protestant]

Published: June 30, 2005
YEAR OF WHOSE LORD?


JEW YORK CITY?

The Asian American Journalist Association (AAJA) is up in arms over comments Jewish-American novelist Norman Mailer made against longtime New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani, who is Japanese-American and holds a US passort in addition to a degree from Yale.

New York's Daily News reported today that in an interview with pot-smoking rebel-rousing Rollin' Stone, Mailer called the Japanese-American reviewer "a one-woman kamikaze" [''divine wind suicide bomber''] and "a token" hire at the Times.

AAJA president and Dallas Morning News reporter Esther Wu, a Chinese-American, wrote in a letter to Jewish-American Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, "We take greater offense at his reference to her as a 'two-fer' and 'token' because she's 'Asiatic, feminist,' which essentially diminishes the accomplishments of all women and journalists."

The Daily News also reported that after trading remarks with Wu through media outlets, Mailer stood by his "token" accusation.

The article stated that Wu responded, "But this has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with character assassination of two whole classes of people (women and minorities) by Mr. Mailer."

Wu also criticized the author of the Rolling Stone article, WASP Douglas Brinkley, who mentioned Mailer's two Pulitzer Prizes (for nonfiction and fiction) but did not cite Kakutani's for criticism.

Through a spokesman for the Times, Kakutani declined to comment.

12:03 AM  
Blogger dan said...

Author Norman Mailer called New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani "a one-woman kamikaze" and "a token" minority hire in a Rolling Stone interview, prompting the president of the Asian American Journalists Association to call him a racist.

Racist or not, Mailer is certainly part of the mindset that keeps the mainstream media -- whether it's journalism or the entertainment industry -- so lily white. If you're a person of color and get in, then of course it must be because you were some affirmative action case.

I've experienced this in my career, taking a job at a big newspaper and having most people assume I was an intern from the minority internship program. Even at other jobs, there is always a subtle undercurrent that the few non-white people on staff were there only because there was some mandate to hire minorities.

Sure, sometimes a minority candidate gets hired when they're not ready for the job. I've seen it. I've also seen a lot of white people who aren't qualified get hired as well. Having a diverse workforce is generally good, but it has to be done right, with good hiring decisions that don't fall into the affirmative action trap that Mailer is complaining about.

12:30 AM  
Blogger dan said...

http://www.hyphenmagazine.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/205

Comments
I've often been one of only a handful of minorities in a newsroom. And usually, I was the only Asian American. Having so few people of color in a newsroom does perpetuate a lack of news coverage of minority communities, and the general invisibility of people of color in the media. I'm not saying that white people can't cover stories that are in minority communities. Any reporter can cover stories well if they take the time to learn about the subject, do the research, and immerse themselves into the community. (And by community, I don't mean just ethnic communities, but subcultures too like people who are into cosplay, or who are obsessed about electric cars, or whatever.) But oftentimes, stories don't even land on the radar because people don't know where to look in the first place or lack an awareness of the culture and issues.

Of course as a reporter, I don't want to be pigeonholed to covering just my own community either. You know what I really hate about being the only Asian American in a newsroom? Co-workers coming up to you and asking you some random question they think you should know the answer to because you're Asian. Like questions about China or what the educational system is like in Japan. I've never even been to Japan, OK?

Posted by: Melissa at July 1, 2005 10:52 AM

12:30 AM  
Blogger dan said...

March 13, 2003

New York Review of Books

Don Quixote at Eighty

By John Leonard

Norman Mailer

The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing

by Norman Mailer

Random House, 330 pp., $24.95

1.
Norman Mailer at age 82+, with an anthology of scars, tickles, slaps, and winks for would-be writers and weary readers — not Aquarius but Gerontion, an old man in a drafty house under a windy knob...

Perhaps 5 percent of ''The Spooky Art'' is previously unpublished, although it's hard to tell for sure as you flip to and fro from body text to source notes. You may recall that in the last mound of Mailer, The Time of Our Time (1998), 1,300 pages of recycled snippets from five decades of fiction and journalism paraded by, not in the order in which they'd been written, but in the order of the years they described. (Thus the "White Negro" essay of 1956 was immediately followed by two chapters from the 1991 novel Harlot's Ghost, which happened to be about the CIA in the late Fifties.) At least in Spooky, the book extracts, prefaces, afterwords, interviews, speeches, talk-show transcripts, and extemp animadversions are arranged, inside broad categories of craft, genre, philosophy, and guff, to accord roughly with the many Golgothas of his long career.

Still the book feels like one of those late-night cable commercials for Roy Orbison's Greatest Hits, or Conway Twitty's: act now, call this toll-free number, and we will also send you, at no extra charge, a cool tool to sharpen your knives, whiten your teeth, and screw your neighbors.

"Craft," says Mailer, "is a grab bag of procedures, tricks, lore, formal gymnastics, symbolic superstructures —methodology, in short." Craft is not in the same big league as "a vision of experience," which is what the great writers all have, and can't be borrowed, mimicked, or faked. Craft is more like "a Saint Bernard with that little bottle of brandy under his neck. Whenever you get into trouble, craft can keep you warm long enough to be rescued." If you like this folksy sort of thing, there is a lot of it in Spooky, a kind of humming on the wires between rants and ruminations about journalism, pornography, critics, being, nothingness, and other writers.

Unbuttoned, he will tell us that poems are a one-night stand, short stories an affair, novels a marriage, and movies "more likely than literature to reach deep feelings in people" because film "delves into deeper states of consciousness." That we need to do something we can write about, preferably something existential, "by which I mean an experience you do not control." That writers ought to train themselves, like athletes, "to do a good day's work on a bad day." That writing on drugs is a lousy idea, but writing without cigarettes is a bitch. That, in first person or third, he has a hard time with multiple characters and passing time: "At the moment the only great writer who can handle forty or fifty characters and three or four decades is García Márquez.... In my Egyptian novel, it took me ten pages to go around a bend in the Nile." Plot, too, is a pain in the pineal gland: "Working on a book where the plot is already fully developed is like spending the rest of your life filling holes in rotten teeth when you have no skill as a dentist."


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And then he sneaks over the border from folksy to half-baked: "That is one of the better tests of the acumen of the writer. How subtle, how full of nuance, how original, is his or her sense of the sinister?" (George Eliot? Chekhov? Stendhal?) "Few good writers come out of prison. Incarceration, I think, can destroy a man's ability to write." (Cervantes, Dostoevsky, Rimbaud, Koestler, Genet, Havel, Solzhenitsyn?) "It is not only that no other man writes so well about women [as D.H. Lawrence], but indeed is there a woman who can?" (If not Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer, Grace Paley, Toni Morrison, or Colette, how about Shikibu Murasaki?) "It is possible that Bellow succeeds in telling us more about the depths of the black man's psyche than either Baldwin or Ellison." (No, it isn't.)

But his footwork is fanciest when he gets to style. Why Are We in Vietnam? does not seem to have been written by the author of Ancient Evenings. There is clearly a Mailer vocabulary, with adjectives like brave, corrupt, existential, inauthentic, primitive, and vertiginous to modify nouns like angel, aura, blood, cancer, cloaca, death, devil, dread, evil, fame, fetish, fever, grace, guilt, gut, hysteria, imperative, lividity, lust, magic, miasma, ontology, orgasm, ovaries, plastic, swine, taboo, underworld, virus, and void. It is the vocabulary of a shaman, and comes with its own drum. But it's not a style. From so much skinwalking, shape-shifting, and baying at phases of far-flung moons, such wayward torque, and all those cantilevered paragraphs gasping for vertical support, you get, instead of a style, the bends. And so Mailer enlists a Cubist:

There are two kinds of writers. Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway, Melville and James, write with an air that is inimitable. There are other writers, usually less famous, who go along in a variety of modes. I'm in the latter camp. The same can be said for painters. Matisse painted in one recognizable vein, while Picasso entered a hundred before he was done.
To which he appends, wonderfully: "What, indeed, did Picasso teach us if not that every form offers up its own scream?" So Sergius O'Shaugnessy need not ever speak to Stephen Rojack, Gary Gilmore, or Menenhetet. This is a soft-shoe shuffle, all the way off the stage, after which he will sit in our laps and tell us that the only other things any novelist really requires are courage and an unconscious. He has, of course, been making it up as he went along, like everybody else, afraid to be found out.

2.
"You, Lowell," Norman said to Robert in The Armies of the Night (1968),

beloved poet of many, what do you know of the dirt and the dark deliveries of the necessary? What do you know of dignity hard-achieved, and dignity lost through innocence, and dignity lost by sacrifice for a cause one cannot name. What do you know about getting fat against your will, and turning into a clown of an arriviste baron when you would rather be an eagle or a count, or, rarest of all, some natural aristocrat from these damned democratic states.
Never mind what Lowell's life actually looked like from inside the poet's head. This is Mailer raw, doubled up, bare-skinned, and beside himself, on another of those out-of-control occasions—arrested for stabbing his wife; abusive at the fiftieth birthday party for which he had made his guests pay; running for mayor as if he were Ezra Pound (the analogy is Jimmy Breslin's)—when what he most hated was his helplessness. There was a similar sloppy performance on The Dick Cavett Show with Gore Vidal in 1971, when he broke and ate his own heart on camera:

I've been so bold as to pretend to be the presumptive literary champ, you know, whether I deserve to be or not. The reason people always talk about me in relation to Hemingway is that Hemingway at a certain point said to himself with his huge paranoia, "They're going to kill me for this, but I'm going to be the champ—it's all I care about." And he shifted the course of American letters because up to that point people who wrote books were men of letters, they were gentlemen, they wrote books, and Hemingway said, in effect, "No people who write books take as much punishment as prizefighters, and one of them has to be a champion."...I have presumed, with all my extraordinary arrogance and loutishness and crudeness to step forth and say, "I'm going to be the champ until one of you knocks me off." Well, fine, but you know, they don't knock you off because they're too damned simply yellow, and they kick me in the nuts, and I don't like it.
More people used to talk this way back in the Ike Age when more of us believed that books saved souls, that the novel was sacred script and totemic space, that a novelist was a magus or a mandrake—mediating "between magic and technology" is how Spooky describes the job, performing "acts of conjuration and propitiation"—and that Mailer himself was the very grandest of pianos:

I remember saying in 1958, "I am imprisoned with a perception that will settle for nothing less than making a revolution in the consciousness of our time." And I certainly failed, didn't I? At the time, I thought I had books in me that no one else did, and so soon as I was able to write them, soci-ety would be altered. Kind of grandiose.
But this grandiosity was also why we rooted for him, our kamikaze Don Quixote and our Elvis—War Novel Whippersnapper ("the life of a soldier was good for one writer!"), Brooklyn Bolshevik ("I started Barbary Shore as some sort of fellow traveler and finished it with a political position that was a far-flung mutation of Trotskyism"), Deer Park Game Warden ("bombed and sapped and charged and stoned with lush, with pot, with benny, saggy, coffee, and two packs a day...tiring into what felt like death"), Self-Advertising White Negro ("the decision is to encourage the psychopath in oneself"), Southern Sheriff, Irish Cop, Mafia Gangster, American Dreamer, Cannibal, Druid, Kabbalist, Orgone Box, Moonman, Sex Crime, and Egyptian. "If I were in a Tarot deck, I'd be the Fool."


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Of course, he embodied another Fifties cliché, the artist who creates himself: the public school boy whose mother sends him away to college with the money saved from her one-truck oil-delivery business; who only goes to Harvard in the first place, where he plays squash and majors in aeronautical engineering, because MIT wanted him to wait until he was seventeen; who drives around in 1942, while waiting for the draft, in an old black Chevrolet convertible given to him by an uncle who got rich from chocolate-covered cherries; who, behind army lines in the Philippines, is a better interpreter of aerial photographs than a typist, but manages to defend himself from redneck bullies while reading Spengler's Decline of the West; who cashes in on the best-sellerdom of The Naked and the Dead with a job in Hollywood, where he introduces James Jones to Montgomery Clift, but rejects an offer to write a screenplay for Humphrey Bogart; who discovers, in Mexico and Greenwich Village, pot, jazz, violence, bullfights, Wilhelm Reich, God and Satan mano a mano, sex as a source of power instead of pleasure, and Hip as the cat's meow:

Hip is an American existentialism...based on a mysticism of the flesh, and its origins can be traced back into all the undercurrents and underworlds of American life, back into the instinctive apprehension and appreciation of existence which one finds in the Negro and the soldier, in the criminal psychopath and the dope addict and jazz magician, in the prostitute, in the actor, in the—if one can visualize such a possibility—in the marriage of the call-girl and the psychoanalyst.
This, in a Village Voice column in 1956, was not only a first draft of the "White Negro" essay that Irving Howe would later regret ever having published in Dissent, but also of course a harbinger: The Sixties were coming. Hide your sister.

While writing columns for both Esquire and Commentary, serializing his Crime Without Punishment novel in a monthly magazine, and campaigning on behalf of Fair Play for Cuba, he also wrote a play, directed three movies, somehow managed to elaborate an anthropology and a demonology, a kind of juju, of air-conditioning, shopping malls, fiberglass, transistor radios, frozen foods, campers, cancer, plastic, sewage, fallout, and The Goat (newspapers), and came out against the war in Vietnam in 1965 in the "milk of magnesia" pages of Partisan Review: "If World War II was like Catch-22, this war will be like Naked Lunch."

On his way with Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg, Paul Goodman and C. Wright Mills, Lillian Hellman and Andy Warhol, to the moon, he would stage and perform opinions on everything from Marlon Brando ("It is that tragic angelic mask of incommunicable anguish which has spoken to us across the years of his uncharted heroic depths"), to WASPs ("They had divorced themselves from odor in order to dominate time, and thereby see if they were able to deliver themselves from death"), to race ("He was getting tired of Negroes and their rights. It was a miserable recognition, and on many a count, for if he felt even a hint this way, then what immeasurable tides of rage must be loose in America itself?"), to women ("The prime responsibility of a woman probably is to be on earth long enough to find the best mate possible for herself and conceive children who will improve the species").

For a while there, at least until an evening at Town Hall with Germaine Greer, he was out in front on the subjects of sex and power. But afterward he seemed stuck, trying to charm his way out of the anal canal, stamping his foot at masturbation, contraception, and abortion. Many years later, on election night 1988, when Hunter S. Thompson finally showed up two hours late at the Ritz in downtown Alphabet City, wearing a rubber Richard Nixon mask, waving a rifle, and embarrassing us as if he were a Mailer, I remember thinking that one reason America had come to hate the Sixties was because so many of us who came of political age in that decade were such tiresome performers. Like something exotic—like, say, Madagascar—we had detached ourselves from the Mother Continent, grown our own flora and fauna, and turned into Mikea Pygmies whose feet are pointed backward so they can't be tracked by their many enemies. Like a bottle-trunked crassulescent baobab, a bygone elephant bird, or a dog-faced, monkey-bodied, panda-coated indri lemur, we were a precious act. On the cusp of extinction, we were showing off instead of hunkering down. In the American Bush, wild Borks were waiting for us.

3.
Irving Howe in the late Sixties felt that the New York intellectuals should have been harder on him, on "Mailer as thaumaturgist of orgasm; as metaphysician of the gut; as psychic herb-doctor; as advance man for literary violence; as dialectician of unreason; and above all, as a novelist who has laid waste to his own formidable talent—these masks of brilliant, nutty restlessness, these papery dikes against squalls of boredom." Richard Poirier disagreed in 1971: "At his best he seeks contamination. He does so by adopting the roles, the styles, the sounds that will give him a measure of what it's like to be alive in this country." At about the same time, Wilfrid Sheed explained: "Whether dealing with yippies or small-town Republicans, Mailer follows the Chestertonian principle of exploring the psychosis proper to the group, the identifying madness, and letting it enter him, like an exorcist opening himself to the devil."

Even Pauline Kael, while insisting in The New York Times Book Review that "Mailer the soothsayer with his rheumy metaphysics and huckster's magick is a carny quack" and that his book on Marilyn Monroe, like Freud's on Leonardo, was "an ecstasy of hypothesis," conceded that his "low cunning is maybe the best tool anybody ever had" for "reporting the way American rituals and institutions operate" and that when he employed "his brains and feelers," he was close to the pleasure of movies: "You read him with a heightened consciousness because his performance has zing. It's the star system in literature; you can feel him bucking for the big time, and when he starts flying it's so exhilarating you want to applaud." But Clive James, reviewing the same book for Commentary, was worried:

And as he has so often done before, he makes even the most self-assured of us wonder if we have felt deeply enough, looked long enough, lived hard enough. He comes close to making us doubt our conviction that in a morass of pettiness no great issues are being decided. We benefit from the doubt. But the price he pays for being able to induce it is savage, and Nietzsche's admonition is beginning to apply. He has gazed too long into the abyss, and now the abyss is gazing into him.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Odd now to think that he was still to publish books on graffiti, boxing, and Henry Miller before winding up his last good decade with The Executioner's Song (1979), which won all the important prizes, and then finally finishing Ancient Evenings (1983) to yawns or disdain. No wonder another serious novel seemed to recede forever into the orgiastic future. If waiting for Ancient Evenings had been like waiting for the Red Sox, Harlot's Ghost was like waiting for Zapata, which then turned out to be a 1,310-page novel about the CIA that mysteriously excluded Vietnam, Watergate, Nicaragua, and Iranamok, as well as running drugs, laundering money, and fingering Mandela. After which, it just so happened that he was not as interesting on Oswald, Picasso, and Jesus —what a trifecta!—as he had been on the moon, Marilyn, and Ali.

Then again, maybe his unconscious let him down. Maybe the unconscious is overrated. "What I am postulating," he said in an interview, "is that the unconscious...has an enormous teleological sense, that it moves towards a goal, that it has a real sense of what is happening to one's being at each given moment." In Spooky he personifies it: "Sometimes I think you have to groom the unconscious after you've used it, swab it down, treat it like a prize horse who's a finer animal than you." But what if your unconscious is full of false consciousness or bad faith? What if it's more like a trash compactor than a dreamcatcher? What if it's a diseased hump, a vampire bat, an alien abductor? Somewhere in Pieces and Pontifications, somebody asked him: "Why can't the unconscious be as error-prone as the conscious?" It was a Freudian question he never answered.

Well, he no longer has to. "One relief to getting older is that I no longer have to square my shoulders every time I go into a bar." He is a changed tune and melancholy baby now, less Dennis the Menace than Ferdinand the Bull. He's downsized those rapturous ambitions. We write novels, he says in Spooky, not to revolutionize anybody's consciousness, but because "of two cardinal impulses (other than to make a living and the desire to be famous). One is to understand ourselves better, and the other is to present what we know about others." And if those novels aren't taken seriously anymore,

a large part of the blame must go to the writers of my generation, most certainly including myself.... We've spent too much time exploring ourselves. We haven't done the imaginative work that could have helped define America, and as a result, our average citizen does not grow in self-understanding. We just expand all over the place, and this spread is about as attractive as collapsed and flabby dough on a stainless steel table.
But listen to him slight his strongest suit, as if his levitation of the Pentagon, his Vulcan mind-meld with the madness of Chicago 1968, his Apollo rocket to the moon, and his rope-a-dope with Muhammad and Mobutu in Zaire hadn't turned out to be glories of American literature: "One wouldn't want to spend one's life at it, and I wouldn't ever want to be caught justifying journalism as a major activity... but it's legitimate to see it as a venture of one's ability to keep in shape rather than as an essential betrayal of the chalice of your art." Followed by:

I loved journalism for a little while because it gave me what I'd always been weakest in—exactly that, the story. Then I discovered that this was the horror of it. Audiences liked it better.... It was those critical faculties that were being called for rather than one's novelistic gifts. I must say I succumbed, and spent a good few years working at the edge of journalism because it was so much easier.
If he'd been born twenty-five years later, he might never have written a novel at all. They do not come naturally to him. We bring extenuations and excuses even to our favorites. Whereas no excuses are necessary for his cat-scan journalism, not even the burden of so many wives, so many children, and so much child support. Maybe he should have been more specific here about money, how it varies from stage to screen to slick. (Anyway, most of the old New York intellectual crowd, from Mary McCarthy and Dwight Macdonald to Harold Rosenberg and Irving Howe, ended up writing for glossies.) I'm also sorry he leaves out any mention of writing for television, not only his adaptation of The Executioner's Song, but screenplays on O.J. Simpson's Dream Team and FBI superspy Robert Hansen. Nor does this sworn enemy of technology have a single word to say about computers and the Internet. But then I was going to chide him for not reading more writers for us, until I saw his limp biscuits on Toni Morrison. Well enough is left alone.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

What's heartening, while at the same time scary, is that a remarkable generation of American writers keeps on trucking into senior citizenship. Saul Bellow is eighty-seven; Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut, and Grace Paley are eighty; William H. Gass, William Styron, Gore Vidal, John Barth, William Kennedy, Robert Coover, Toni Morrison, E.L. Doctorow, Philip Roth, and John Updike are all in their seventies; and Annie Proulx, Don DeLillo, Joan Didion, Robert Stone, Joyce Carol Oates, Thomas Pynchon, and John Edgar Wideman are in their sixties. This in spite of what Mailer suggests are odds stacked against Quixote to begin with:

Of course, it's virtually as if writers are there to be ruined. Look at the list: booze, pot, too much sex, too little, too much failure in one's private life, too much attention, too much recognition, too little recognition, frustration. Nearly everything in the scheme of things works to dull a first-rate talent. But the worst probably is cowardice—as one gets older, one becomes aware of one's cowardice. The desire to be bold, which once was a joy, gets heavy with caution and duty. And finally there's apathy. About the time it doesn't seem too important to be a major writer, you know you've slipped far enough to be doing your work on the comeback trail.
There it is again, the cowardice always ready to strike if courage ever nods. It's time Mailer gave both his courage and his unconscious a well-appointed rest. Pete Seeger, Václav Havel, Dr. King, and Dr. Spock never had to square their shoulders going into a bar. Murray Kempton recalls Mailer at the 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago talking about marching with the kids against the cops and mayor: "Norman said that if I would go alone, I had more guts than he did. And I wondered again, as I often have, how insubstantialities like guts can worry men so much more intelligent than I." And then Kempton adds, with his usual gravity and grace:

The one thing that guts is not is a quality that can be depended on. That is why it is useless continually to test it, because there is always a time when it fails almost anyone. Bravery is irrelevant; unless you have the dangerous good fortune of not knowing you are in danger, the trick is to anticipate; as often as not, you will act badly anytime you are surprised. Dignity, not courage, is all anyone can hope to keep; how odd that Mailer should so little understand his life as not to see that one of its most significant achievements has come not from its tests of his bravery but from its continual salvage of dignity intact.
And so he has: salvaged himself, if not much of a hodgepodge book, from the culture wars into which he plunged, a privateer, a Jolly Roger, on behalf of the rest of us when we were young and needed to be manly, with a peg leg, a parrot, and a plank to walk himself off of whenever the vapors took him. "We sail across dominions barely seen," he ended his Ancient Evenings, "washed by the swells of time. We plow through fields of magnetism. Past and future come together on thunderheads and our dead hearts live with lightning in the wounds of the Gods."

So ....happy birthday.

12:42 AM  
Blogger dan said...

Literary Smackdown: Mailer vs. Kakutani

radar magazine online

freshintel@radarmagazine.com

Dreaded New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani—for whom “the death of the author” is less a new-critical trope than a career goal—is said to be livid over Norman Mailer’s quasi-racist remarks about her in the new Rolling Stone. Buried in Douglas Brinkley’s epic profile of the ailing literary lion in the mag’s summer double issue is a scathing, if somewhat incoherent attack on Kakutani, wherein Mailer suggests she would have been given the axe long ago were it not for the Gray Lady’s affirmative action policies.

“Kakutani is a one-woman kamikaze,” Mailer gripes. “She disdains white male authors, and I’m her number-one favorite target. One of her cheap tricks is to bring out your review two weeks in advance of publication. She trashes it just to hurt sales and embarrass the author. But the Times editors can’t fire her. They’re terrified of 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. And deep down, she probably knows it.”

We’re told Kakutani, once dubbed “Bitchiko” by Bret Easton Ellis, is so furious about the slurs she’s thinking about filing complaints with the Academy of Arts and Letters and other stuffy literary groups to which Mailer belongs. We would have suggested challenging the 82-year-old to a boxing match, but Kakutani did not return calls seeking comment.

12:47 AM  
Blogger dan said...

epithets being thrown around

''La Kakutani'', of MK
"Bitchiko" (by Brett Eaton Ellis)

''Jewboy'' (Mailer)

12:52 AM  
Blogger dan said...

page 6

June 28, 2005 -- NORMAN Mailer denies his trashing of New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani in a Rolling Stone interview was a tactic to prevent her from reviewing his books. After reading our theory here yesterday, the Pulitzer prize-winner sent us a statement: "Thank you for deeming me clever enough to conceive of a ploy. I plead guilty. My aim, however, is not to embargo Kakutani from reviewing my books. The other reviewers at the Times may be so wary of Michiko's displeasure that the replacement could prove worse. All I request, therefore, is that Ms. K give me my bad review on publication day rather than two weeks before. Ears and tails to you, PAGE SIX, you've obtained a little free writing from me."

5:42 AM  
Blogger dan said...

interesting way to phrase things:

sumo style slam?
one-woman kamikaze?
what's next?
Bitchiko? (terrible, Mr Ellis!)


Norman Mailer's sumo-style slam against New York Times book critic Michiko
Kakutani -- in a Rolling Stone interview, he called her a "one-woman kamikaze," a ...

www.reason.com/hitandrun/

6:43 AM  
Blogger dan said...

Getting Kakutanied...


Garth writes in with this question about Michiko Kakutani, the menacing daily book critic for the New York Times:

Honestly, what is wrong with
Michiko Kakutani? I'm referring
here to her unflattering review
of David Foster Wallace's new
book, but, just in general, what
is her deal?

Kakutani seems to be one of those people who is feared and misunderstood more than disliked, though many profess disliking her. She is unknowable, reportedly something of a recluse, and yet twice a week she exercises swift justice in one of the world's most public forums. Her reviews can often seem mean-spirited, and authors and readers sometimes wonder if she holds some sort of mysterious grudge against much of the literary world. To get a taste of her importance in the literary world, this NPR story is worth a listen. In it, her penchant for going for the jugular is discussed, and the theory is proffered that Michiko Kakutani's "problem" is one shared by many reviewers. The book reviewer's plight has been touched upon by many writers: book after book shows up at the doorstep, deadline begets deadline and the reviewer begins to hate the idea of books rather than the books themselves. After reviewing hundreds of mediocre books they forget what it feels like to be surprised and refreshed by the written word, they dread that the joy of reading has been forever destroyed. So, perhaps Kakutani's mean reviews are just a form of occupational rage. On the other hand, Jonathan Yardley, the much warmer reviewer for the Washington Post, has been in the reviewing business for decades and his love for his work is clearly evident. To top it off, he was reported to have been "so unimpressed with Kakutani that when he heard she won a Pulitzer, he wanted to send his back." Still, given her consistent meanness, it is undeniably exhilarating when she bestows praise upon a new book, and I am always interested in reading this new book that managed to warm Kakutani's cold, unfeeling heart.

If you don't like my explanation, an old piece by Colin McEnroe on the McSweeney's website offers a different theory.

as retrieved on 28 Jun 2005 20:46:14 GMT.

7:27 AM  
Blogger dan said...

MK has been a critic in the cultural news department at The New York Times in January 1983. She had served as a reporter covering cultural news since 1979, when she joined The Times.

http://www.pulitzer.org/year/1998/criticism/bio/

Ms. Kakutani came to The Times from Time magazine, where she had been a staff writer since 1977. Before that, she was a reporter at The Washington Post.

Born in New Haven, Conn., on Jan. 9, 1955, Ms. Kakutani received a B.A. degree in English from Yale University in 1976.

Ms. Kakutani is single and lives in Manhattan.

8:14 AM  
Blogger dan said...

Michiko Kakutani as Superhero?
Kakutani's drop-kick evisceration of Tom Wolfe's novel in Friday's NEW YORK TIMES [10/29/04] demonstrates just how badly she wants to wear the cape & mask of ICON-BUSTER--and reveals, perhaps, just how irrelevant she is on the verge of becoming. Kakutani's review has (as they say in the poker trade) a noticable "tell." It proudly announces that Wolfe's I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS "will be released on November 9" thereby jumping the gun by 11 days on what, in stores all across the country, will be known not as Tuesday, but as Tom Wolfe day. Thus Kakutani--who loves to skewer the high & mighty, but has perhaps noticed lately that her scathing review at the time of publication are having less and less impact a book's broader reception (or sales), clearly demonstrates that her deeper agenda is to preserve her place in the cultural landscape, if only through petulant disregard for the unspoken contract that reviewers, in exchange for having early access to materials not otherwise available, will wait until the printed book is actually in stores.


Truth is? I bet she's right about the book; and Kakutani's reviews are still the most entertaining in town--if in part because it's fascinating (like a train wreck) to watch as, with the passing of time, her claws grow sharper and sharper while the crisp elegance of her critical skills head in the opposite direction. But this review is dirty pool on several levels, and one can only imagine the reaction at FSG. And at Roger Straus's gravesite, a string of foul-mouthed invective can be heard from blocks away.


Originally published under "Occasional Pontificator" as a Sidebar Rant, 10/29/04

7:48 PM  
Blogger Ted Burke said...

Mailer's misgivings and mistrust of Kakutani's methods and motivations are well founded. She is a bright woman, perhaps the smartest girl (or boy , as the case might be) in Advanced English who, though knowing all the facts concerning a novel, shows little evidence that actually enjoys reading. Her criticisms of Mailer are all rather pat, and cannot, as Leonard is able to, locate genius in all the huffing and puffing Mailer has done in his writing life. Her intent might to be major force in the literary history of her time, but she is not a critic, really, but merely a reviewer, a consumer advocate, one who judges
books by their pound value rather than their taste.

10:41 PM  
Blogger dan said...

Friday, July 01, 2005

Wu Says Mailer's Defense Is "Poor Spin Control"

Esther Wu scoffed at Norman Mailer's latest jabs in the New York Post today. She told a PR maven in Dallas in an e-mail:


The issue is plain and simple: he called Ms. Kakutani a "token" and a "two-fer" and insinuated that her race was the only reason she was hire at the New York Times. Mr. Mailer forgets that like himself, Ms. Kakutani is a Pulitzer-prize winning writer.

Mr. Mailer's attempt to put up smoke screens with his essay on political correctness is a poor attempt at spin control. This issue began when he criticized Ms. Kakutani for publishing reviews of his books before they hit the shelves -- which he says are often negative and impacts book sales.

And from there Mr. Mailer's criticism became a personal attack on Ms. Kakutani, and in turn all women and all journalists of color by inferring that the only reason Ms. Kakutani was at the New York Times was because of her gender and her race. This is insulting and demeaning to all women and all people of color.


At the least, Mailer has let his well-documented combustible temperament get the best of him again.

posted by SB at 5:36 PM Trackback (0) 2 Comments

Norman Mailer in War of Words with Dallas

4:43 AM  
Blogger dan said...

Norman Mailer in War of Words with Dallas Morning News Reporter




Esther Wu, Dallas Morning News reporter and current leader of the Asian American Journalists Association, decried as racist Norman Mailer's bashing of New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani as an "Asiatic, feminist . . . twofer . . . token."

Mailer defended himself in today's New York Post: "While my quarrel is with Kakutani, not Esther Wu, I will remark that political correctness is a toxic to American freedom. Over the last 20 years, it has certainly leeched out much of the initiative and integrity of the Democratic Party. I would go so far as to say that political correctness is totalitarian. It violates the old American liberty that you can make up your own mind, and then, even better, proceed to change it. That freedom is worth more to a good many of us than being told what we can say and not say. So, the Republicans, despite their endless catalog of evasions and hypocrisies, have profited from the ideological dead weight that liberals have taken on. As for being a racist, or next door to one, my response is not printable."

posted by SB at 12:37 PM Trackback (0) 1 Comments

4:44 AM  
Blogger dan said...

A blogger in Texas writes:

[One thing that surprises me is that nobody has brought up the fact that Mailer is himself Jewish, and as a Jew, he should know about prejudice and bias and discrimination. Why has the media politely left this part of the story out? Mailer, a Jewish-American writer, raps Kakutani, a Japanese-American critic (she was born in the USA, too, her mom was born here too. Her Dad came from Tokyo) by calling her "Asiatic" and a one-woman kamikaze" [WWI suicide pilot from Japan]!!! That is so terribly racist on Mailer's part, why has no one spoken of this in the media? Jewish Mailer should know better! It wasn't so long ago, back in the day, when people spoke of Jewish critics as "_________" and "__________" and "_________________." Right? So shouldn't sweet Norman understand this and humbly apologize, even at age 82, and say: "sorry for using ethnic and racial epithets, Michiko, I was wrong."

Imagine if some critic referred to Mailer as a ''token kike'', or a ''Hymietown two-bit Shylock novelist''? People would be incensed.

We should be incensed over what the old man said about Ms Kakutani, too. Wrong is wrong.

Come on, Norman, own up!]

6:51 AM

4:52 AM  
Blogger dan said...

Wednesday, Jun 29

Asian American Journalists Association to Norman Mailer: No ears and tails for you!
The Asian American Journalists Association have sent an angry letter to Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone "calling out Norman Mailer as a racist" but more importantly calling him out for dissing on "the accomplishments of all women and journalists of color" by calling Michiko Kakutani a "two-fer": the "token" "Asiatic, feminist" at the Times.

To paraphrase: Yo, Norm, she's from fucking Connecticut, and you, America's Greatest Living Novelist, are a bigot. For shame.

Actual text of the letter after the jump.

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

cc: Norman Mailer, author
Michiko Kakutani, book critic, The New York Times
Will Dana, Managing Editor, Rolling Stone
Mae Cheng, President, Unity: Journalists of Color
Herbert Lowe, President, National Association of Black Journalists
Veronica Villafañe, President, National Association of Hispanic Journalists
Dan Lewerenz, President, Native American Journalists Association
Deepti Hajela, President, South Asian Journalists Association

5:04 AM  
Blogger dan said...

Mailer V. Kakutani Norman mailer has taken on New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani.

"In an interview with Rolling Stone [Mailer] called the Japanese-American critic 'a one-woman kamikaze' and 'a token' minority hire.'

He says "authors do like to reviewed on publication day, not two weeks earlier with a heinously bad review … This is what Ms. Kakutani has been doing to my books for many years now, and that may not be politically correct, but it sure is foul."

New York Daily News
06/30/05
Posted: 06/30/2005 11:10 pm

5:07 AM  
Blogger dan said...

(image via kingfisherpress)

Michiko Kakutani Versus Norman Mailer.

Cantankerous old fucker Norman Mailer is still ruffling feathers. When last we heard of Mailer, he had just punched New Republic owner/cryptoracist Marty Peretz in the stomach. The Corsair wishes he could have done the same. Peretz duly replied that he barely felt a thing. He would not say the same about The Corsair, we wager. Now, according to RadarOnline:

"Dreaded New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani—for whom 'the death of the author' is less a new-critical trope than a career goal—is said to be livid over Norman Mailer’s quasi-racist remarks about her in the new Rolling Stone. Buried in Douglas Brinkley’s epic profile of the ailing literary lion in the mag’s summer double issue is a scathing, if somewhat incoherent attack on Kakutani, wherein Mailer suggests she would have been given the axe long ago were it not for the Gray Lady’s affirmative action policies.

“'Kakutani is a one-woman kamikaze,' Mailer gripes. 'She disdains white male authors, and I’m her number-one favorite target. One of her cheap tricks is to bring out your review two weeks in advance of publication. She trashes it just to hurt sales and embarrass the author. But the Times editors can’t fire her. They’re terrified of 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."

Deep into his "senior moment," yielding to the cognitive vertigo of Alzheimer's, Mailer continues, absently:

"They get two for one. She is a token. And deep down, she probably knows it.'

"We’re told Kakutani, once dubbed 'Bitchiko' by Bret Easton Ellis, is so furious about the slurs she’s thinking about filing complaints with the Academy of Arts and Letters and other stuffy literary groups to which Mailer belongs."

While we are sure that Mailer's arthritic knees are a quiver at the prospect at a censure vote at PEN America's next vapid little "Poets and Democracy" meet-and-greet (Averted Gaze), we ... cannot quite muster up the necessary interest to even care. Basta!

5:13 AM  
Blogger dan said...

June 30, 2005

http://foreigndispatches.typepad.com/dispatches/2005/06/kakutani_1_mail.html

Kakutani 1 - Mailer 0

In his attack on Michiko Kakutani, Norman Mailer proves himself a classless asshole not above playing the "victim of PC" card when it suits him.


Norman Mailer has demonstrated that neither age nor his status as one of the grand old men of American letters has withered his loathing of a bad review by savaging the most powerful book critic in America.


The 82-year-old author has torn into Michiko Kakutani, chief critic of the New York Times, for a series of unfavourable reviews of his books, and taken to writing to tabloid gossip columns to defend his attacks.

Mailer said: "She is a one-woman kamikaze. She disdains white male writers, and I am her number one favourite target. She trashes it just to hurt sales and embarrass the author. But the Times editors can't fire her. They're terrified of 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."

This is nothing more than a load of racist bullshit; where's the evidence to support the claim that Kakutani despises all white male writers, and who is this guy to effectively dismiss her as an affirmative-action hire? The use of the term "kamikaze" is hardly subtle either; he obviously has a bug up his behind about being dismissed by this woman he sees as a bloody "Jap."

The truth of the matter is that Michiko Kakutani is the NYT's most powerful book critic for one perfectly valid reason: she's damn good at her job, she knows turds when she sees them, and she's not afraid to tell her readers that, yes, this one's a steamer. If washed-up hacks like Mailer happen to be incapable of creating books that pass the muster of a reviewer with an eye for quality, that is no fault of hers, but their own.

Someone should tell Norman Mailer that he was not brought up properly, and he missed a good opportunity to keep quiet. Resorting to racist attacks on reviewers while hiding behind the "white male victim" shield will do nothing whatsoever to revive his literary reputation.

PS: It doesn't take much digging to reveal that Mailer is a lying, bigoted old fool who seems to imagine that he constitutes the universe of white male writers all by himself.

PPS: This has nothing to do with Mailer's idiocy, but I can't resist mentioning that it turns out Michiko Kakutani is the daughter of the mathematician Shizuo Kakutani of the Kakutani Fixed Point Theorem. It's interesting how often literary and mathematical talent are to be found under the same roof.

5:25 AM  
Blogger dan said...

Shizuo Kakutani,
father of Michiko Kakutani
may he rest in peace



Born: 28 August 1911
in Osaka, Japan
Died: Recently, 2004, 2003? USA



Shizuo Kakutani's father, Kakujiro Kakutani, Michiko's grandfather, was a lawyer.

Shizuo was the youngest of the two sons in the family, the eldest being Seiichi who was eight years older. Seiichi studied physics at Kyoto University and it was through him that Shizuo was first introduced to mathematics. When he was about nine years old his elder brother, on one of his frequent visits back to his home while he studied at university, would explain mathematical ideas to him.

Shizuo was fascinated and was enthusiastic to learn more mathematics. However two factors conspired to make this impossible. The first problem was that Kakujiro Kakutani had made the decision that one of his two sons would follow him into law and take over his practice in due course. Clearly Seiichi was training to be a physicist and not studying law so Shizuo would have to be the one to follow his father. The mathematics lessons from Seiichi were tragically cut short when he died of typhoid fever at the age of twenty.

After completing his middle school, Shizuo entered Konan High School in Kobe to prepare for his university studies. At this stage he had to choose between arts subjects or sciences and his father gave him no choice since studying law at university required him to graduate from high school which qualifications in literature and arts. By the time Shizuo graduated, his father relented seeing that his son was so keen to study mathematics at university. However, Shizuo was now not qualified to enter a mathematics course at either Tokyo University of Kyoto University since these had absolute rules regarding entry qualifications.

There was one possible route for Shizuo which was to enter Tohoko University in Sendai. This did not prevent those without a science qualification entering a mathematics course but it gave preference to those the scientific training. Kakutani applied but there were only fifteen places, and seventeen applicants. Of the seventeen, exactly fifteen had the science qualification from high school so it looked like an easy task to decide to admit those and to turn down Kakutani. However, after due consideration it was decided to admit all seventeen applicants and Kakutani had scrape through.

At Tohoko University Kakutani was introduced to the theory of analytic functions. He read various classic texts including those of Stone and Banach and by the time of his graduation at the end of the three year course he had a good foundation in modern analysis. He was appointed as a teaching assistant at Osaka University in 1934 where he collaborated with K Yosida on a paper on Nevanlinna theory. Hajian and Ito write in [2]:-

During his years at Osaka University Shizuo Kakutani had already established himself as a research mathematician by publishing a number of papers in functional analysis and ergodic theory, and the 1937 paper in the Japanese Journal on Mathematics on Riemann surfaces. It was this work which was later to become the main part of his doctoral dissertation. it was also this paper that caught the attention of Weyl ...

Indeed on the strength of this work Weyl invited Kakutani in 1940 to spend two years at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. Kakutani not only took great interest in the work of Weyl's group at Princeton but also the group of mathematicians working with von Neumann on measure theory and ergodic theory. He met many other young mathematicians at Princeton who would influence him such as Ambrose, Halmos, Doob, and Erdös. Kakutani also made many visits during which he met mathematicians such as Garrett Birkhoff, G D Birkhoff, Stone, Wiener, and Hille.

In December 1941 with Kakutani still studying at Princeton, war broke out between the United States and Japan with the entry of the U.S.A. into the Second World War. Of course this put Kakutani in a difficult position for he was now a guest in a country at war with his own. He was able to remain at Princeton, however, to complete his visit and he returned to Japan in the summer of 1942.

On his return Kakutani accepted the appointment as assistant professor at Osaka University. He also continued his collaboration with Yosida, who by this time was at Nagoya University, and began a new collaboration with Yosida's colleague Kiyosi Ito at Nagoya. The later war years were particularly difficult ones in Japan and many Japanese mathematicians failed to keep their research going through the difficulties of these times. Kakutani, however, managed to continue to produce a stream of papers containing highly original ideas.

In 1948 Kakutani was again invited to the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. In the summer of that 1949 he worked at the University of Illinois, then later that year accepted the offer of an appointment at Yale University. On one of his frequent visits to New York, Kakutani met Kay Uchida and they were married in 1952; they had one daughter Michiko.

Kakutani contributed to several areas of mathematics. Among the areas on which he has written papers we must mention: complex analysis, topological groups, fixed point theorems, Banach spaces and Hilbert spaces, Markov processes, measure theory, flows, Brownian motion, and ergodic theory.

Kakutani was to remain at Yale until he retired in 1982. In June of that year he received the Academy Award and the Imperial Award of the Academy of Japan.

As to Kakutani's personality, Hajian and Ito write in [2]:-

Professor Kakutani is a gentleman and a scholar of the old school. His mild manner, gentle graciousness, and total dedication to mathematics leave an indelible impression on all who have gotten to know him.

5:29 AM  
Blogger dan said...

20 Posts containing kakutani mailer in the last 2 days

Kakutani 1 - Mailer 0
In his attack on Michiko Kakutani, Norman Mailer proves himself a classless asshole not above playing the "victim of PC" card when it suits him. Norman Mailer has demonstrated that neither age nor... into Michiko Kakutani, chief critic of the New York Times, for a series of unfavourable reviews of his books

Posted 3 hours ago in Foreign Dispatches 96 links
By Abiola Lapite
Kakutani 1 - Mailer 0
In his attack on Michiko Kakutani, Norman Mailer proves himself a classless asshole not above playing the "victim of PC" card when it suits him. Norman Mailer has demonstrated that neither age nor... into Michiko Kakutani, chief critic of the New York Times, for a series of unfavourable reviews of his books

Posted 3 hours ago in Foreign Dispatches 75 links
Mailer catches flack for racist comments
Mailer catches flack for racist comments IMG Resident crazy old author guy, Norman Mailer... York Times critic Michiko Kakutani a "kamikaze" and an "Asiatic, feminist . . . two-fer . . . token." President of the Asian American Journalists Assn., Esther Wu, has fired back calling Mailer a racist

Posted 5 hours ago in pop hawg 0 links
Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer, somewhere in medialand, spat at NYT editor Michiko Kakutani by describing her as a "threefer": a person who is untouchable on 3 counts in accordance with PC rules. Firstly... was the third?" queried Mailer aloud, "Let's just call her a twofer then." // posted by spinbad @

Posted 9 hours ago in spinbadz own 39 links
La Kakutani
Mailer’s “racist” comments. So who is Michiko Kakutani? Click here to read an informal, gossipy blog... IMG Stormin Norman American novelist Norman Mailer, a grumpy old man at 82, took a swipe at Japanese-American literary critic Michiko Kakutani in a magazine interview recently. IMG Kakutani

Posted 10 hours ago in Japundit 102 links
By Edward Chmura
NAUGHTY MEXICAN STAMPS The Mexican attitude...
INCORRECTNESS IS AFFORDABLE IF YOU ARE 82 Norman Mailer yesterday undertook a cultural... journalists incensed over his strike on Times book critic Michiko Kakutani. The 82-year-old novelist - who..., president of the 2,000-member Asian American Journalists Association. "Calling out Norman Mailer

Posted 12 hours ago in Political Correctness Watch 169 links
Mailer catches flack for racist comments
Mailer catches flack for racist comments IMG Resident crazy old author guy, Norman Mailer... York Times critic Michiko Kakutani a "kamikaze" and an "Asiatic, feminist . . . two-fer . . . token." President of the Asian American Journalists Assn., Esther Wu, has fired back calling Mailer a racist

Posted 5 hours ago in pop hawg 0 links
The International Michiko Kakutani Reader's...
The International Michiko Kakutani Reader's Homepage Yes, just who is Michiko Kakutani? NEWS... for the New York Times. Yes, in fact, Ms. Kakutani has been a leading book reviewer at the TIMES... loathe the novels of Norman Mailer --OOPS! --(see recent www.MobyLives.com item here:) Mailer, unaware

Posted 1 day ago in La Kakutani 0 links
Mailer Confirms my Suspicians that Kakutani is...
As mentioned in a previous post, Michiko Kakutani is possibly the hardest book critic in the world to please. I enjoy reading her rip apart writers, no matter how popular or hip they may be, but Norman Mailer has decided Kakutani has ulterior motives behind her negative reviews: “Kakutani

Posted 1 day ago in Lee Cohen 0 links
AFFLECK, GARNER WED ON ISLE SOM...
woman) at West Hollywood's premiere gay bar, The Abbey. MAILER RIPS 'TOXIC' P.C. NORMAN Mailer — attacked as a "racist" by Asian American Journalist Association head Esther Wu after he called Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani an "Asiatic, feminist . . . twofer . . . token" — tells PAGE SIX

Posted 1 day ago in PG6 0 links
WILL ELLEN GET 'NIGHTLINE' GIG? ...
bastard, like he is!" MAILER RIPPED OVER 'ASIATIC' NORMAN Mailer is catching static over "Asiatic... Michiko Kakutani as a "kamikaze" and an "Asiatic, feminist . . . two-fer . . . token." In a letter to Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, who published Mailer's remarks, Esther Wu, president of the Asian

Posted 2 days ago in PG6 0 links
Books - savages 'kamikaze' critic who
Mailer savages 'kamikaze' critic who panned his books Telegraph.co.uk, UK - 10 hours ago The 82-year-old author has torn into Michiko Kakutani, chief critic of the New York Times, for a series of unfavourable reviews of his books, and taken to

Posted 2 days ago in All Computer Books 0 links
NORMAN MAILER: STILL OFF HIS MEDS
desecration story. The NYPost's Page Six brings us the latest Mailer-strom: Norman Mailer... York Times critic Michiko Kakutani as a "kamikaze" and an "Asiatic, feminist . . . two-fer... indignantly on Kakutani's behalf and demanding an apology on all counts. Relax, Asian-American crusaders

Posted 2 days ago in Michelle Malkin 3853 links
By Michelle Malkin
WILL ELLEN GET 'NIGHTLINE' GIG? ...
bastard, like he is!" MAILER RIPPED OVER 'ASIATIC' NORMAN Mailer is catching static over "Asiatic... Michiko Kakutani as a "kamikaze" and an "Asiatic, feminist . . . two-fer . . . token." In a letter to Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, who published Mailer's remarks, Esther Wu, president of the Asian

Posted 2 days ago in PG6 0 links
Created By James Leyva Berlusconi Summons U.S....
In Super Bowl Ring Incident Norman Mailer Savages NY Times Book Critic He's Come Undone She Michiko Kakutani is a one-woman kamikaze. She disdains white male writers, and I am her number one favorite

Posted 2 days ago in Required News 0 links
Kakutani 1 - Mailer 0
In his attack on Michiko Kakutani, Norman Mailer proves himself a classless asshole not above playing the "victim of PC" card when it suits him. Norman Mailer has demonstrated that neither age nor... into Michiko Kakutani, chief critic of the New York Times, for a series of unfavourable reviews of his books

Posted 3 hours ago in Foreign Dispatches 75 links
Mailer catches flack for racist comments
Mailer catches flack for racist comments IMG Resident crazy old author guy, Norman Mailer... York Times critic Michiko Kakutani a "kamikaze" and an "Asiatic, feminist . . . two-fer . . . token." President of the Asian American Journalists Assn., Esther Wu, has fired back calling Mailer a racist

Posted 5 hours ago in pop hawg 0 links
WILL ELLEN GET 'NIGHTLINE' GIG? ...
bastard, like he is!" MAILER RIPPED OVER 'ASIATIC' NORMAN Mailer is catching static over "Asiatic... Michiko Kakutani as a "kamikaze" and an "Asiatic, feminist . . . two-fer . . . token." In a letter to Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, who published Mailer's remarks, Esther Wu, president of the Asian

Posted 2 days ago in PG6 0 links
Kakutani 1 - Mailer 0
In his attack on Michiko Kakutani, Norman Mailer proves himself a classless asshole not above playing the "victim of PC" card when it suits him. Norman Mailer has demonstrated that neither age nor... into Michiko Kakutani, chief critic of the New York Times, for a series of unfavourable reviews of his books

Posted 3 hours ago in Foreign Dispatches 96 links
By Abiola Lapite
Books - savages 'kamikaze' critic who
Mailer savages 'kamikaze' critic who panned his books Telegraph.co.uk, UK - 10 hours ago The 82-year-old author has torn into Michiko Kakutani, chief critic of the New York Times, for a series of unfavourable reviews of his books, and taken to

Posted 2 days ago in All Computer Books 0 links

5:44 AM  
Blogger dan said...

Another poster wrote:

"People have brought up the fact that Mailer is Jewish and have wondered
aloud why he, as a member of an often oppressed and persecuted group himself, would make
these kinds of grotesque anti-Asian comments.

It ought not confuse anyone who has read
him consistently, since there is precious little Jewish subject matter in
his writing (although his brand of spiritual mysticism
owes quite a lot to his nominal faith).

He's not one to claim membership of
> a particular class other than being a straight, white male; that's enough
> for him to contend with over a lifetime of work.Mailer's references to
> Kakutani , perjoritively, as a feminist are understandable given his feuds
> with some women intellectuals in the past; on that score he was given a
> particularly rough reading by Kate Millet, to whom he responded with his
> blistering and "Prisoner of Sex". The remarks about her being Asiatic and
> "kamikaze" are indefensible, though, .....

and a writer as brilliant as Mailer
> should have known better, but let's make that "known better" in a perfect
> world. The world isn't perfect, people get worked up and angry over many
> things, and make remarks in the heat of a larger passion that are moronic
> and haunt them for years.

[Note: Elvis Costello's drunken rant against Ray Charles
> being a "blind nigger" in a brawl with Steve Stills is a handy case in
> point, as I doubt Costello is a racist and had it more in mind to irritate
> an annoying Stills. Elvis spent a few years living this one down and making
> apologies.]


Mailer will pass from this planet with these sorry remarks on his
> hands, and it's shame , since I regard him as one of our greatest writers.

> Worse, it obscures legitimate complaints against Kakutani's questionable
> timing for when reviews appear--they seemed timed to hurt an author's
> sales --and the NY Times ethics in the way reviews are assigned.


"Harlot's
> Ghost" , Mailer's long and complex novel of the CIA, was handed to old
> Mailer adversary John Simon to review and the results, not unexpectedly, was
> a negative review that pilloried Mailer and his life's work rather
> gratuitously and spent the majority of the print space summarizing the
> novel's plot rather than evaluating or discussion at some level that
> suggested intellectual honesty.

Not every review Mailer has gotten from a
> Times writer has been negative, but there seems to be an agenda being played
> out here,
> and the routine spikes he receives from a mediocre intelligence like
> Kakutani is bound to result in an inelegance that obscures a real grievance."

QUOTE UNQUOTE

8:25 PM  
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9:56 AM  
Blogger TuvianNavy said...

Dan,

I am Wataru Satoh, an amateur historian.
Your article was quite helpful to my investigation, so I would show gratitude to you.

I am investigating on Michiko's father, Shizuo Kakutani. He was one of notable collaborators of John von Neumann and Paul Erdos, and wrote a series of papers on esoteric themes in functional analysis toward late 1950's.

I'm waiting someday Michiko will write an authoritative biography of her father, so I would not formally publish my survey.

6:35 AM  

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