Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Trouble with Quotes

I came across a short book review today that made me laugh. It has "made my day," so to speak, which is either a sign of my dedication to the art of poetry or a lamentable commentary on my social life. Maybe both.

Anyhow, as proudly posted on, Publishers Weekly has come out with a blurb on the soon-to-be-released The Best American Poetry 2006:

"From Publishers WeeklyStarred Review. In the 19th installment of this annual series, former poet laureate Collins (The Trouble with Poetry, 2005), one of America's most popular poets ever, has culled the typical handful of big names and some surprising new voices from more than 50 American literary publications. Collins's predilections for accessibility, humor and tidy forms are evident, but there are also surprises. Usual suspects—former Best American editors Ashbery (who surprises with a poem in neatly rhymed couplets), Hass, Simic, Tate and Muldoon, as well as Mary Oliver—meet rising masters like Kay Ryan ("A bird's/ worth of weight/ or one bird-weight/ of Wordsworth"), Vijay Seshadri and Franz Wright. Most interesting, however, is the chance each volume offers to see which up-and-comers make the cut. This year's roster includes edgy poems by Joy Katz, Danielle Pafunda ("my hair cramped with sexy"), Terrance Hayes, and Christian Hawkey ("O my/ beloved shovel-nosed mole"), among others. Collins's surprising and opinionated introduction—in which he admits that, unlike some of series editor David Lehman's previous guest editors, "the designation 'best' doesn't bother me," and offers his definition of a good poem (often one that "starts in the factual" and displays "a tone of playful irreverence")—may cause some controversy. (Sept.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition."

This anonymous review tickles my funny bone in at least several respects.

First, the reviewer characterizes Billy Collins as "one of America's most popular poets ever," like a kid describes the latest Harry Potter flick or a promoter publicizes the latest heavyweight fight. Putting aside the possibility that poets like Poe and Frost may have had a few admirers of their own, I just find this proclamation a tad amusing.

Second, the reviewer obviously believes potential purchasers of the book will just go ga-ga for "surprises." In this volume, there are "some surprising new voices" (first sentence), "also surprises" (second sentence), and "Ashbery (who surprises with a poem in neatly rhymed couplets)". Now, look, I have some favorite words of my own as well. That's ok. But not only does the review overuse the word "surprises," it doesn't really discuss them much or give us much of a hint. (Ashbery has always had a thing for rhyme; I don't consider his "rhymed couplets" the equivalent of Brad and Jen announcing their breakup.) It makes me wonder whether there are real "surprises" in the anthology. Perhaps there are, which leads to my third and primary point.

The Trouble with Quotes: Third, the reviewer points out that "this year's roster includes edgy poems" and then lists several poets and quotes lines from a couple of these poets' poems. Apparently, Danielle Pafunda has a poem with the line "my hair cramped with sexy," and Christian Hawkey has a poem with the line "O-my/ beloved shovel-nosed mole."

Now my first thought here was that it must be tough when one's hair is "cramped with sexy." Maybe that's the right time to switch to another brand of shampoo. I'm not sure I quite get this line, but it must be like when Justin Timberlake sings "I'm bringing 'sexy' back," and sure, he's not bringing any nouns back, but he's got a cool adjective to accompany him.

And if you think a poem about cramped hair is "edgy," keep your striped socks on for that "beloved shovel-nosed mole." A few thoughts crossed my mind here. First, when one's mole is shovel-nosed, it's best to get that checked. Second, it can't be easy to be a "shovel-nosed mole," especially if all the other moles have sexyback snouts cramped with sexy. Hmmm...perhaps this review is asking us to read the lines from these two different poems together, as in, "O-my/ beloved shovel-nosed mole/ its hair cramped with sexy". Third, deep down, I'm glad that the mole is "beloved" in spite (or because) of being shovel-nosed, what with the national media forcing us to conform to its ideal of beauty these days. Fourth, my apologies, but I haven't encountered enough moles to vividly imagine any mole, let alone one that is shovel-nosed. Finally, am I making a mountain out of a mole with this post?

Anyways...I'm sure that Joy Katz and Terrance Hayes were quite mournful that the review didn't grab isolated, "edgy" lines out of their respective poems. I actually feel a tad sorry for Pafunda, because I have indeed read and enjoyed her poetry. So this blurb makes me think of the dilemmas involved with quoting individual lines from poems in book reviews. Taking lines out-of-context can inhibit the reader's comprehension of the poem and/or unfairly cast an unfavorable light on it. In fact, I think it's possible that I 'd enjoy the poems from which these random, quoted lines have journeyed.

Fourth, the reviewer's listing of four poets, "Hass, Simic, Tate, and Muldoon, as well as Mary Oliver," made me think of the four Beatles and Yoko. Maybe it's because the female poet is randomly singled out for some reason.

Oops, I missed another "surprise" -- the last sentence of the review states that Collins offers a "surprising and opinionated introduction." Apparently, Collins dares to boldly offer the startling proclamation that "the designation 'best' doesn't bother me" as well as his definition of a good poem. Utterly stunning! I just can't believe that Mideast conflicts are still making the front pages of the NY Times as opposed to this amazing piece of news...(I'm just kidding, of course.) Same as every year, I'll still go out and buy this book and promise to act surprised.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Asian Americans and Hurricane Katrina

Although not well-publicized in the media, thousands of Asian Americans, most of them Vietnamese, were adversely affected by Hurricane Katrina. The Asian American Justice Center has accumulated a great list of reports and links to resources on Hurricane Katrina:

Here is an excerpt from the Asian American Justice Center's "An Informal Report: Current Challenges Faced by Asian Americans and Hurricane Katrina: Highlights on Language Services and Physical and Mental Concerns," presented by Juliet Choi (

"Background: Demographics and Community

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana was home to over 50,000 Asian Americans, of which more than half were Vietnamese. New Orleans, steeped in a rich and multicultural heritage, was home to the oldest Filipino community in the nation. Southern Mississippi was home to about 7,000 Vietnamese and other Asian residents. Many lived in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and in places such as Bayou La Batre, Alabama, Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Gulfport, Mississippi. To date, an estimated 10,000 Vietnamese evacuees relocated to Houston. Katrina also affected Chinese, Filipino, Bangladeshi and Korean Americans.

Many of the Asian Americans in the Gulf coast region hit by Katrina are, or were, shrimpers and fishermen, people who have made significant contributions to the local economy and fishing industry for years. Moreover, many of these Asian Americans are refugees and immigrants, people who have settled along the Gulf Coast after surviving war and political turmoil in their native countries. As stated in a recent Chicago Tribune article, 4 many of the Asian American hurricane victims are now refugees once again, having lost everything, facing language and cultural obstacles, leaving them isolated and unable to access or even understand the wide array of federal assistance programs widely available.

More specifically, a large part of this Asian American community is unaccustomed to the American way of accessing public assistance and navigating the intricacies and bureaucracies of public agencies. An added cultural dynamic to the refugee community not readily recognized is the fact that many of these individuals left a society where government and public agencies were almost never trusted and always feared. As a result, in times of need and crisis, Asian Americans, like in so many communities, typically turn first to their internal community groups where there is a sense of familiarity, where the same language is spoken and where similar cultural values and traditions are shared, and thus, some trust."

Monday, August 28, 2006

On Mastery

One of the most prestigious awards in American poetry is the Wallace Stevens Award, which is given by the Academy of American Poets. Currently carrying a stipend of $100,000 for the recipient, the award "is given annually to recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry" ( Basically, it is a lifetime achievement award for poets.

But rather than honoring poets for "lifetime achievement", the award recognizes poets for "outstanding and proven mastery." I have several issues with this formula for "mastery".

First, a minor one. What does it mean for "mastery" to be "outstanding and proven"? To me, saying "outstanding and proven mastery" is kind of like saying "terrific and wonderful greatness" or "benevolent and humanitarian charity." In other words, the adjectives seem superfluous. But let's take the adjectives seriously for a moment. "Outstanding" works for me -- it signifies that the judges believe that the poet's work is unique, innovative, special. But "proven" strikes me as a tad conclusory, and I'm not sure you can "prove" "mastery" in poetry. It's not like a math problem. There are no theorems and equations. It's not like any Carlos Bulosan may write a poem that is somehow the objective magical formula of poetic superiority.

It leads to my second (and primary) issue, which is the award's recognition for "mastery in the art of poetry". I have problems with the term "mastery". Now mastery can mean "natural or acquired facility in a specific activity," but it can also mean "the act of exercising controlling power or the condition of being so controlled." To my mind at least, since I often find it difficult to separate words from their social context, the word "mastery" carries some baggage. It reminds me of the long history of the "master-slave" relationship. "Mastery" conjures up images of power, control, force, coercion, domination, etc. I don't know if you would want to give an award for it, even if "mastery" in the art of poetry is possible.

I say, "even if 'mastery' in the art of poetry is possible," because I highly doubt that it is. I think that what distinguishes the work of many of the winners of the Wallace Stevens Award -- e.g. Adrienne Rich, Jackson Mac Low, Ruth Stone, etc. -- is not "mastery" but a constant innovation of form and susbtance. The poets, through a lifetime of work, have exemplified a certain restlessness, a desire for greater understanding of the multiple facets of poetry, an originality that builds upon the past. I can't say for sure, but I am skeptical whether any of the honored poets, or the poet-judges who honored them, would claim that they have achieved "mastery in the art of poetry," because mastery suggests an endpoint whereas the award honors work that is capable of much interpretation, vital, and enduring.

Third, as a quick note, I think that one might observe that no racial minorities and only two female poets have won in the twelve year history of the award. Though quite a few female and African-American poets hve been judges, John Yau is the only Asian-American to have been a judge. Similar observations may be made of the Pulitzer Prizes and National Book Award in poetry. This is not a critique but merely a caution to remain conscious of "who" we designate as our "masters" in the art of poetry, race and gender being two elements of who we are. Mastery is singular, whereas poetry is for all.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Lack of Asian-American Student Lit Mags at Colleges and Universities

Here's a question: Why are there virtually no Asian/Asian-American student literary magazines at colleges and universities? Even as the Asian-American student population at colleges and universities continues to grow, and even as a respectful number of Asian-American students choose to major or minor in English, the Asian or Asian-American student literary magazine remains a rare species at colleges and universities.

In fact, I can only think of two Asian-American student literary magazines -- John Hopkins' Anagram and the University of Pennsylvania's Propaganda Silk (formerly known as Mosaic -- and I do approve of the creative name change from the previous, accurate-though-pedestrian title). I find this number surprisingly low, especially if you account for the many west-coast colleges and universities, like UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, and USC, with relatively large Asian-American student populations.

I have two separate hypotheses that may or may not be right. First, I think that the relative lack of Asian-American faculty in English departments, especially tenured faculty, may be responsible for the lack of Asian-American student literary magazines. While such publications may be student-initiated, students do come and go (regardless of whether they talk of Michelangelo). In other words, most students are only at a college or university for four years, and usually, it takes a year or two simply to become acclimated to dorm life and midnight marathons of reading poems. The faculty remain, and often a student-run publication needs a dedicated faculty advisor to ensure its year-to-year endurance.

Second, I think that some Asian-American students either do not want or take an interest in an Asian/Asian-American literary publication. They may feel that there is no need for a distinct, ethnically/racially-based literary magazine and even perceive such a publication as self-segregating. Now, I think that the holding of a negative perception of Asian/Asian-American literary magazines is a minority view, but I think that there are some Asian-American students who hold it.

It is an interesting question (interesting to me, at least) whether colleges and universities need Asian/Asian-American student literary publications. Perhaps Asian-American students have sufficient creative outlets elsewhere, but on the other hand, such publications may draw attention to particular issues and themes of particular salience to Asian-Americans.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

For Roger Ebert

As you may have heard by now, film critic Roger Ebert ( has been unwell and is currently recuperating from surgery. His wife has been providing updates on his progress on his website. Last week, Jay Leno subbed for Ebert on his show Ebert and Roeper. Leno was solid, but it was not the same, of course.

What does Roger Ebert have to do with this blog? Well, in short, no Roger Ebert, no Asian-American Poetry blog. Much of the "voice" of this blog has been shaped by Ebert's print and television reviews. I started reading Ebert's print reviews and watching Siskel and Ebert when I was about twelve or thirteen, and it has had a profound influence on my writing style as well as way of conceiving and viewing the world. His critical voice is impossible to emulate. Lots of film reviews are good, but he takes it to that difficult-to-define next level of brilliance. His film reviews always manage to hit such a wide range of notes -- informative, funny, tender, sarcastic, sophisticated, personal, charming, serious, and entertaining. Understandably, I have looked up to him. As someone whose writing style is constantly evolving, I think that I have chosen a good role model. Get well soon, Roger! You are definitely missed.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Three Nice Listings of Links

For fans of Asian-American poetry, here are three sites that offer good listings of Asian-American poetry-related websites and blogs: Mor X. Chang's, Lee Herrick's, and Bryan Thao Worra's

Friday, August 04, 2006

Revisiting Michael Magee's "Glittering" Work

Yes, friends, I am a few months late to the paper-knights-of-the-round-table discussion on Michael Magee's "The Guys, Their Asian Glittering Guys, Are Gay." Judging by the 103 comments on Tim Yu's second post on this poem,, I gather this "glittering" jewel became an object of importance for a couple dozen or so folk who are not working a 70-hr workweek or raising small kids (and if you are, while still managing to find time to blog and/or post comments on blogs, kudos to you).

Forgive me if I am mistaken, but I have the general impression that pretty much everything has been said on Magee's poem already. In this post, I am doing something different. Essentially, I am workshopping the first two stanzas of the poem here. It is an example of a larger project that I have been contemplating for a much longer time. It is my belief that any poem, no matter how "good" it is, can be revised/rewritten to take on different meanings. Notice I did not say "revised and made better". Perhaps such revision may make a poem "better," but "better" always seems quite subjective and that endeavor would be relatively uninteresting to me, or at least, not as interesting as an exploration into the different possibilities of language without such an ambitious (or arrogant?) agenda.

Here, below, with "Their Guys, Their Asian Glittering Guys, Are Gay," (, I am trying to concretize the ideas, concepts, and emotions that Magee has expressed through his poem. As is, I think that Magee's poem is a fascinating piece with a lot of interesting content that should be streamlined. Some poems need greater abstraction, but I sense that this poem is struggling towards greater directness, perhaps even a social statement of some kind.

At this point, Michael Magee's poem seems almost trapped between flarf and the work of Sharon Olds. (Do I get bonus points for using "Michael Magee" and "Sharon Olds" in the same sentence?) Magee uses fragments and pidgin in parts, but I would edit out most of these devices. I am not sure that they work that well in this particular poem, and at any rate, the speaker does not appear to be Asian-American (as exemplified by the line, "I don't want to sound stereo-/typical, but most Asian people I HAVE MET are pretty short," in the second stanza). The speaker is probably Caucasian. I also prefer Tim Yu's title for the poem, "Those Glittering Gay Guys," for the sake of its relative simplicity -- Magee's more experimental, more grammaticallly flamboyant title would probably work better for me in a poem that I perceived as aiming for greater abstraction. Another way of revising the poem, I think, would be to move further in the direction of flarf, but that would require heavier lifting.

"Those Glittering Asian Guys" - first and second stanza rewritten

Ten years and another Asian city shall arise.
Let the Empire swallow countries for their own benefit.
Brutus and Ajo, pity the look in the eyes of their country. A thin Asian
chick wears a burgundy car coat, Hong Kong chic.
Old guys in Chinatown like pick-up trucks,
insinuate that guys with trucks deconstruct the meaning of Asian norms.
Six guys. On some occasions, they grunt at a pick-up
as they make their way. An Asian Santa can be seven feet tall.
The "green" is spotted with snow. The flag is up. The ball is on the green.
You always hear about sleazy guys, their drivers ready,
their spectacular gazes upon Kimmy, a 21-year-old Asian cutie.
Kimmy dials a number on her cell phone. I understand.

Model minority Asian stereotypes slurp cereal from a carton.
Soon will be the baptism of their sons. I do not want
to stereotype, but most Asian people I HAVE MET are pretty short.
In a country full of plots, I search for character. But it always
ends in a soapy mess, and I cannot tell Asian from Hispanic anymore.
It depends on the wetness of skin tone.
He was Malaysian in the last century, Asian in this one,
tumbling through fantasies of beautiful bad men deceiving us with
their easy-going nature. My eyes are switching from their normal green.
The problem is that we were once special --
with our white-striped manes, watching biker-bankers tear off
their Hell's Angels jackets, partying away through the grubby paws
of horniness. What made you call her a Dragon Lady?
Anything could titillate straight guys back then. Now we are anyone.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

On Michiko Kakutani, Part II

(Note: You should probably read Part I before proceeding to Part II. I think that it might make my writing seem more logical and orderly and possibly even halfway decent and amusing. Who knows? It won't take long. You can even eat a doughnut while you're reading.)

Second, Ben Yagoda points out that Kakutani's reviews are "harsh an awful lot of the time, and publishing folk commonly complain that Kakutani is too hard to please." ( Poor publishing folk! I feel sorry for them now. Really, I had no idea that book reviewers were supposed to compromise their honesty and integrity for the sake of book sales. But putting aside my ignorance of that matter, I question whether "bad" book reviews do cause books to sell less well and that "good" book reviews cause books to sell better. (If that were the case, sales of poetry books should have gone through the roof by now.) Actually, it would be interesting to read a study that mapped out some kind of statistical correlation between book reviews and book sales. As for myself, sadly, I have a mind of my own and can process my own thoughts. An intriguing "bad" book review ironically, or not ironically, can make me more interested in the book itself.

Third, and maybe most importantly, I feel that Yagoda overlooks Kakutani's conscious development of a "diva persona" -- in other words, Yagoda does not recognize that many of Kakutani's book reviews are overtly performative. It is like wagging a finger at a drag queen for wearing too much eyeshadow.

Yagoda takes issue with Kakutani's use of "lapel-grabbing intensifiers like utterly and wonderfully and superfluous adjectives like savvy and embarrassing." Well, as utterly amazing as Yagoda probably felt for making wonderfully intruiging critiques of Kakutani to please those who dislike her, it may just be a tad embarassing that he apparently was not sufficiently savvy enough to acknowledge the performative aspects of Kakutani's prose. Yes, Kakutani uses too many adjectives at times. Yes, it is over-the-top at times. That's the point. It is also one of the main pleasures of reading one of her book reviews. Her book reviews can be Christina Aguilera-esque fun. With many of those types of book reviews, it is almost her signature. She aims for a grandiose form of humor sometimes, and the key to happiness and equanimity is to not take her reviews too somberly.

Unfortunately, it seems that some critics and authors have chosen to take her reviews somberly and personally. That's fair enough. As Yagoda notes, Susan Sontag, one of my favorite intellectuals, fairly asserts that "[Kakutani's] criticisms of my books are stupid and shallow and not to the point." Sontag is playing according to the rules of the diva game here -- diva vs. diva, criticism vs. criticism. On the other hand, Norman Mailer infamously referred to Kakutani as a "one-woman kamikaze" and a "token" minority, choosing to attack the person instead of the prose, thus violating the rules of the diva game while simultaneously committing the sin of being unfunny with remarks that lack arc, performance, or irony.

Fourth, just quickly, Yagoda asserts, "The qualities most glaringly missing in Kakutani's work are humor and wit." I disagree. I do not think that humor and wit are missing. I think that Kakutani is being funny and implictly encouraging us not to take her critiques -- the thoughts of just one person -- too seriously. Perhaps Yagoda should have taken the advice that he gives Kakutani at the end of his piece and remarked that "I think that the qualities most glaringly missing..." I agree with Yagoda's advice on the use of the pronoun "I," but interestingly, at various points in his piece, Yagoda sinks into the kind of faux-objectivity for which he lambasts Kakutani, making debatable claims sans use of the pronoun "I". Kakutani often omits the pronoun "I", but with her prose, so much of her presence already looms over the bold assertions, that this omission does not strike me as that glaring.

Finally, what's up with the illustration that accompanies that article?! As much as many publishers and book reviewers would like to ship Kakutani to Easter Island, perhaps Kakutani's head could have been a wee-bit more well-proportioned. (Yes, I realize that the illustration is a purposeful exaggeration -- how original!) Perhaps we should just be thankful that the artist did not make Kakutani's eyes even beadier. You know, the illustration could have shown Kakutani with a better hairdo and a trendier outfit. But I suppose that would undermine a major point of this article and many other critiques levied against Kakutani -- the smart and the honest are also the angry and the wrinkled.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

On Michiko Kakutani, Part I

Ladies and gentlemen, in recent years, Michiko Kakutani has taken a steady drubbing from authors and fellow critics alike, and I feel it only fair to offer a rebuttal of sorts to the rarified, haute-culture, bitch-slapping of the so-called brilliant upon the so-called brilliant -- a defense of Michiko Kakutani. My rebuttal will be the type of response that only out-of-it, literary-loving nerds like myself could possibly care about, but since you are what you eat, and I eat celery sticks without peanut butter and lima beans, I shall plow forward.

Here I am going to use Ben Yagoda's fascinating Slate article,, as my take-off point. Yagoda does a solid job of summarizing the critiques and epithets that have been hurled at Kakutani and adds the tidbit that he went to Yale with Kakutani -- for which I am supremely jealous, since Kakutani is like the mother I never wanted but with whom I would have liked to chit-chat with over tea, bagels, and maraschino cherries during our summer picnics upon the Mayweather Fields of Shangri-la.

Sure, Yagoda tosses a few bones in the general direction of Kakutani, asserting that she has an "estimable intelligence" (side note: dolphins and most barnyard animals also have an "estimatable intelligence"), but he uses this concession merely to tee himself up for the rest of the article. The vast majority of the piece basically treats Kakutani's book-reviewing skills like an overstuffed Chinese lantern pinata, shellacking Kakutani the book reviewer for being "a profoundly uninteresting critic" in a variety of ways.

Yagoda scores some candy out of his endeavor, but unfortunately, it's mostly the moldy coconut kind. I think that his analysis is useful, however, in that he misreads Kakutani in a way that is similar to the way that many authors and critics have misread her -- or rather, her unique twist upon the art of the book review. These critics have consequently failed to understand why she strikes many of her devotees as *gasp* even better than a crossword puzzle or a Thomas Friedman op-ed desperately trying to center itself in the middle of the ever-shifting Left.

First, Yagoda declares that Kakutani's "main weakness is evaluation fixation." It's funny, isn't it -- criticizing a critic for being critical? Ho, ho, ho. Yagoda recognizes the irony here and quickly adds that the problem for Kakutani, as opposed to the flawless Pauline Kael, is that "for her, the verdict is the only thing." At this point, since Yagoda does not cite to much evidence to prove this point, I could shout, "Wrongo!" and my imagined Yagoda and I might engage in an "is-so, am-not" debate. (I don't fault Yagoda here for not rambling through a list of examples -- after all, it is a Slate article and not some graduate thesis that will never be read or published.) But I will not do so. I have graduated from kindergarten.

Instead, having read a large number of Kakutani's book reviews, I will cite to my own evidence that contradicts Yagoda's assertion of Kakutani's "evaluation fixation". Google "Michiko Kakutani" and you will come across a large archive of her book reviews. If you read enough of these reviews, you will notice a general pattern. Kakutani usually opens with a viciously verdict-ish (can I use the word "verdict-ish"?, oh wait, this is my blog, of course, I can. I don't even have to obey conventional rules of grammar or keep my focus, but I usually do -- except for this run-on parenthetical -- because I'm basically a stick-in-the-mud panda) paragraph or two, as Yagoda notes. But Kakutani also spends about 50 to 90 percent of her book reviews, depending on the particular review, summarizing and describing the book in precise detail, before closing with a verdict-ish final paragraph. You do have substance there, I'm afraid. Critics of Kakutani neglect this substance, I think, because the opening and closing paragraphs of her pieces are often unusually blunt.

But you should note that I say "general pattern," "50 to 90 percent," "usually," and "often," because there is no "Michiko Kakutani" book review. Critics tend to ignore the fact that Kakutani displays an amazing range of style and tone in her book reviews -- from serious to funny, from irreverent to critical, from substantive to silly (silly, as in the case of the parody reviews that she writes from time to time, which Yagoda acknowledges towards the end of his piece. Like Yagoda, I am not the most avid fan of those reviews.) Yagoda cites to Kakutani's review of Nick Hornby's latest novel as "a case study," but you could point to plenty of other Kakutani book reviews completely unlike that one. In fact, with a few of her book reviews, you can barely discern Kakutani's personal opinion of the book itself, because she is so preoccupied with describing it. Typically, Kakutani reserves this serious side of her persona for works of non-fiction. Note her interest in books on politics and international affairs. Also, not to be overlooked is the fact that Kakutani delves into a wide variety of genres -- non-fiction, fiction, short story, biography, etc. -- but sadly, she has not entered the enchanted forests of recipe books, dictionaries, or (egads!) poetry.