Speaking at Harvard yesterday [April 28, 2008] during a discussion with literary critic James Wood, Jonathan Franzen said that "the stupidest person in New York City is currently the lead reviewer of fiction for the New York Times.”
He was referring, of course, to Michiko Kakutani, who presumably got on Mr. Franzen's bad side with her brutal review of his recent memoir, The Discomfort Zone. In that review, Ms. Kakutani wrote: "there is something oddly preening about [Franzen's] self-inventory of sins, as though he actually reveled in being so disagreeable." Also: "Just why anyone would be interested in pages and pages about [Franzen's unhappy marriage] or the self-important and self-promoting contents of Mr. Franzen’s mind remains something of a mystery."
During the talk with Mr. Wood ... is also quoted as saying" “The reviews tend to be repetitive and tend to be so filled with error that they’re kind of unbearable to read, even the nice ones .... The most upsetting thing nowadays is the feeling that there’s no one out there responding intelligently to the text .... So few people are actually doing serious criticism. It’s so snarky, it’s so ad hominum [sic], it’s so black and white.”
-- The New York Observer\by Leon Neyfakh