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Michiko Kakutani

Michiko Kakutani
Michiko Kakutani at Tribeca Disruptive Innovation.jpg
Michiko Kakutani receiving the 2018 Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award
Born (1955-01-09) January 9, 1955 (age 63)
New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.
Other namesMichi
EducationYale University
OccupationCritic, writer
Parent(s)Shizuo Kakutani

Michiko "Michi" Kakutani (角谷 美智子, Kakutani Michiko, born January 9, 1955) is an American literary critic and former chief book critic for The New York Times.


Early life

Kakutani, a Japanese American, was born on January 9, 1955, in New Haven, Connecticut. She is the only child of Yale mathematician Shizuo Kakutani and his wife Keiko ("Kay") Uchida. While her father was born in Japan, her mother was a second-generation Japanese-American raised in Berkeley, California.[1][2] Michiko received her B.A. in English literature from Yale University in 1976, where she studied under author and Yale writing professor John Hersey, among others.[3]


Kakutani initially worked as a reporter for The Washington Post, and then from 1977 to 1979 for Time magazine, where Hersey had worked. In 1979, she joined The New York Times as a reporter.[3]

Kakutani worked as a literary critic for The New York Times from 1983 until her retirement in 2017.[3] Her periodically harsh reviews of some prominent authors have garnered both attention and, on occasion, criticism. For example, in 2006, Kakutani called Jonathan Franzen's The Discomfort Zone "an odious self-portrait of the artist as a young jackass". Franzen reportedly subsequently called Kakutani "the stupidest person in New York City".[4][5] Another example is that, in 2012, Kakutani wrote a negative review of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Antifragile.[6] In 2018, Taleb stated in his book Skin in the Game that "someone has to have read the book to notice that a reviewer is full of baloney, so in the absence of skin in the game, reviewers such as Michiko Kakutani" can "go on forever without anyone knowing" that they are fabricating and drunk.[7] According to Kira Cochrane in The Guardian, such counterattacks may have bolstered Kakutani’s reputation as commendably "fearless".[4]

She has been known to write reviews in the voice of movie or book characters, including Brian Griffin,[8] Austin Powers,[9] Holden Caulfield,[10] Elle Woods of Legally Blonde,[11] and Truman Capote's character Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's.[12]

On July 19, 2007, The New York Times published a pre-release story written by Kakutani about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. An account of the ensuing controversy, including the critical comments of some Harry Potter fans, can be found on the Times Public Editor's blog.[13]

Kakutani was parodied in the essay "I Am Michiko Kakutani" by one of her former Yale classmates, Colin McEnroe.[14]

Kakutani announced that she was stepping down as chief book critic of the Times on July 27, 2017.[5][15] In an article summing her book reviewing career, a writer in Vanity Fair called her "the most powerful book critic in the English-speaking world" and credited her with boosting the careers of George Saunders, Mary Karr, David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, and Zadie Smith.[5]

In July 2018, Kakutani published a book criticizing the Trump administration titled The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump.[16]

Kakutani is a fan of the New York Yankees.[17][18] Her aunt, Yoshiko Uchida, was an author of children's books.[1]

Media references

  • A fictionalized account of Kakutani's life entitled "Michiko Kakutani and the Sadness of the World!" was published in the online and print magazine Essays & Fictions.[19]
  • She is mentioned in The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J. K. Rowling).
  • She is referenced in an episode of the HBO series Sex and the City. In "Critical Condition" (season 5, episode 6), Carrie Bradshaw releases a book that Kakutani reviews. Various characters deem the critic's name "too hard to pronounce," including Miranda Hobbes, who memorably states, "Just don't say her name again — it will drive me over the edge."[20]
  • Kakutani is mentioned in an episode of the short-lived ABC sitcom It's Like, You Know... (season 2, episode 4).
  • She is mentioned in an episode of HBO's Girls (season 3, episode 5).
  • In The Affair, a publisher who wants to print Noah Solloway's second novel tells him that "Michi Kakutani will flip for this, and she hates everything" (season 1, episode 10).
  • She is mentioned by Jimmy from the FXX show You're the Worst who says "If you look past Michiko Kakutani's thinly veiled ethnocentrism and scorching ephebiphobia..." when discussing the response to his novel. ("Crevasses": season 2, episode 2)
  • She is mentioned in the fourth and final season of The O.C.
  • She is mentioned in the novel Purity by Jonathan Franzen as the author of a damning review of a newly released novel.



  1. ^ a b Kakutani, Michiko (July 13, 2018), "I Know What Incarceration Does to Families. It Happened to Mine.", The New York Times
  2. ^ Niiya, Bruce. "Yoshiko Uchida". Densho. Retrieved 2018-07-14.
  3. ^ a b c d "Criticism — Biography". Pulitzer Prizes. 1998. Archived from the original on 2007-07-04. Retrieved 2007-07-09..
  4. ^ a b Cochrane, Kira (30 April 2008). "Don't mess with Michiko Kakutani". the Guardian. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Pompeo, Joe (2017). "Michiko Kakutani, the Legendary Book Critic and the Most Feared Woman in Publishing, Is Stepping Down from The New York Times". The Hive. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  6. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (16 December 2012). "'Antifragile,' by Nassim Nicholas Taleb". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  7. ^ Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2018). Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life. Random House Publishing Group. p. 44. ISBN 9780425284636.
  8. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (2010-12-06). "Marilyn, Dostoyevsky and Me, Her Pup". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-06.
  9. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (2002-07-23). "Hipoisie and Chic-oisie And London Had the Mojo". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  10. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (2005-08-23). "Who's Afraid of Holden Caulfield?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  11. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (2005-06-19). "Digging For Gold In Stilettos And Silk". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  12. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (2005-10-24). "Tru, Dear, There's Only One Holly. Moi". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  13. ^ Hoyt, Clark (2007-07-19). "Did The Times Betray Harry Potter Fans?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
  14. ^ McEnroe, Colin (January 1999). "I Am Michiko Kakutani". McSweeney's. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  15. ^ "Michiko Kakutani Is Retiring", Press Run, NYT, July 27, 2017.
  16. ^ Zack, Jessica (July 17, 2018). "Book critic Michiko Kakutani takes on Trump in 'The Death of Truth'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  17. ^ Kakutani, Michiko. "In a Fan's Eyes, the World Turns Upside Down". New York Times. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  18. ^ Kakutani, Michiko. "Insider's View of What Went Wrong in the Bronx". New York Times. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  19. ^ Michaels, Joseph, "Michiko Kakutani and the Sadness of the World!", Essays and Fictions, 8.
  20. ^ Waters, Juliet (2005-10-13). "Candace Bushnell moves from chick lit to fem lit with Lipstick Jungle". Montreal Mirror. Archived from the original on 2006-05-12. Retrieved 2007-07-09.

External links