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A Critic at Large

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I am Michiko Kakutani. Many people will have a hard time accepting the idea that a basically undistinguished middle-aged white man living in Hartford, Connecticut, is actually the brilliant, acerbic, reclusive, rarely photographed lynxlike New York Times book critic and Pulitzer winner. But I am.

When Colin Mcenroe's pseudo-confessional essay "I Am Michiko Kakutani" (excerpted above) was recently posted on the Web edition of McSweeney's -- David Eggers's 'zine for the junior Harper's set -- it garnered more than a few guffaws from its literary-minded e-readers. But who would have guessed that the jokey transcript would turn into a feverish publishing-industry chain letter? In the weeks since the publication of the outrageous account -- which suggests that Michiko Kakutani is a made-up character, her name taken from a collegiate coinage used as "a metaphor for onanism" -- the city's editors, publicists, and assistants have been gleefully forwarding the cult-status parody to dozens of recipients at a time. "Kakutani simultaneously instills in editors hatred, admiration, and fear," says an editor who, of course, demands anonymity. When editors and publicists learn that Kakutani is to review one of their titles, "there's this sense of trepidation, like, 'God help you.' " The reclusive, lynxlike critic's assessment of her parodist's skills? Naturally, she could not be reached for comment.


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