Monday, April 24, 2006

Michiko's Itsy-Bitsy Thesaurus (April 25 edition)

Related posts:
Not Cuckoo for Kakutani
Michiko's Teensy-Weensy Thesaurus (April 14 edition)
Presenting ... the latest episode in our popular adventure series, Michiko's Thesaurus, in which America's most powerful book critic wields the world's tiniest reference work in her battle against authors who launch their Weapons of Mass Production toward an unsuspecting public.

In Tuesday's New York Times, Michiko Kakutani unveils a dismissive review of an author's second novel (here's a shocker) without using the word "sophomore." (Oh, dear. Have both pages containing her entire battery of "S" words fallen victim to a toxic spill of Elmer's Copy & Paste?) Fortunately for us, there are 25 other letters in the alphabet, and the Mighty Michiko delights her fans with a couple of familiar classics from her lexiconically limited lingo.

Never one to find much to like in a sophomore--er, follow-up--effort, our heroine faithfully pegs Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan as less satisfying than his "rollicking debut novel." That first novel, we note, was in good company:

--rollicking new novel (THE HIPPOPOTAMUS, Stephen Fry)
--rollicking new novel (SOLOMON GURSKY WAS HERE, Mordecai Richler)
--a rollicking narrative (THE EGYPTOLOGIST, Arthur Phillips)
--rollicking essays in this collection (AS OF THIS WRITING, Clive James)
--rollicking picaresque tale (MASON AND DIXON, Thomas Pynchon)

The rollicking Kakutani stuns her foes who haven't seen this frolicking adjective lately--but she's been making up for lost time. Only three weeks ago she reported that Rich Cohen's Sweet and Low was "a rollicking, utterly compelling family saga." Sweet!

But, what's this? Have those sticky "S" pages become unglued? Or has Michiko managed to peel back the bottom corners to rescue an oldie-but-goodie that delivers a knockout blow to the hapless Shteyngart (say it fast three times), whose book:

"frequently feels synthetic and contrived"
--frequently synthetic and contrived (GARDEN OF EDEN, Ernest Hemingway)
--feel similarly synthetic and contrived (THE MORTALS, Norman Rush)
--feel highly synthetic and contrived (THE DISTINGUISHED GUEST, Sue Miller)
--something synthetic and contrived (I MARRIED A COMMUNIST, Philip Roth)
--feels synthetic and secondhand (YOU SHALL KNOW OUR VELOCITY, Dave Eggers)
--feel synthetic and forced (THE LAST OF THE SAVAGES, Jay McInerney)
--feel synthetic and strained (MORNING, W.D. Wetherell)

Once again, the plastic-plying Kakutani contrives to yank Tautology from the jaws of Neologism! What a glorious day for enthusiasts of synthetic synthesis!

Stay tuned for coming chapters of Kakutani's clunky cliches--exclusively on Cloyce's Coffee Klatsch...