Literary Smackdown: Mailer vs. Kakutani

Apr. 9 2008, Published 6:11 a.m. ET

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

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“Kakutani is a one-womankamikaze,” Mailer gripes. “She disdains white male authors, andI’m her number-one favorite target. One of her cheap tricks is to bringout your review two weeks in advance of publication. She trashes it just to hurtsales and embarrass the author. But the Times editors can’t fireher. 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 atoken. And deep down, she probably knows it.”

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


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