Michiko Kakutani has stepped down as the NY Time's principle book critic, an event I say is 38 years beyond the expiration date of her worth as a cultural commentator. Her prose was remarkable for its lack of cadence or rhythm or music of any sort. She wrote to the beat of the metronome, and her thinking followed suit, hewing to safe formulation, received recyclings of conventional wisdom. Her espousal made her seem less like the critic than it made her resemble the World's Smartest Typist. I intend no slight to competent typists, but the quality of Kakutani's praise or criticism for author were exceedingly ordinary and seemed, really, to be little more than the sort of compliments one gets from dutiful host, polite and icy, or the complaints one of your friends who has fashioned a better-phrased brand of snark and sarcasm.
Her intentions, too often, were rather obviously not critical thinking but character assassination; her repetitive riffs against Mailer, Franzen, Nick Hornby and Don DeLillo went for quite a few years; a dutiful editor at the Times ought to noted this and instructed her to (1) find some other authors to write about with a much less glaring set of preconceived judgments and (2), to start writing reviews that steered away from the short list of tropes she used without end as a means to praise or damn and instead do some real critical thinking. Kakutani was an ethically bankrupt critic of no discernible into or passion for the literary arts she presumed to judge. She was a long time disgrace to the critic's trade and craft. Banal and annoying are exactly the right words to describe her. Calling her a critic grossly overstates what she did for a living, which was to produce, assembly line fashion, formulaic judgements that riled authors and readers alike for the perfunctory competence she brought to her job. In a paper otherwise blessed with the best staff of art critics, culture writers and columnists, she was the tone-deaf embarrassment.