Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Love Affair with Michiko Kakutani

I'm sorry, but I can no longer keep my crush hidden from the world: I am in love with Michiko Kakutani. Well, not Michiko Kakutani the person. I don't know her. I don't even have her poster over my bed. I'm talking about Michiko Kakutani the NY Times book reviewer, more specifically, the book reviews themselves, which are some of the most entertaining literary works being written today.

There is no equivalent to Michiko Kakutani in poetry criticism today. (If you think there is, let me know. Prove me wrong.) No one in poetry criticism writes that clearly and honestly. Too many poetry critics use big words and complicated sentences meaninglessly and off-handedly allude to obscure poets as if the reader would care that the critic is so smart. Most importantly, of course, too many poetry critics write reviews that are BORING. I don't care how many color photocopies you make of your shiny Ph.D. diploma from Fancy Feast University -- boring does not equal interesting!

In addition to being a marvelous writer, Kakutani also gives the reader different looks in terms of style and content. You never go into a Kakautani review quite knowing what she will say and how she will say it. That's a good thing, because if you could fully anticipate what you're going to read, you'd probably not read it in the first place. For example, Kakutani's most recent review is written entirely in the first person and makes self-referential remarks on the critic's own personal life -- http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/23/books/23kaku.html. It's a strange review, almost like a Tim Wakefield knuckleball, but it's nice to witness a critic innovate and attempt to challenge the conventions of the review form.

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