In the last five weeks, Michiko Kakutani has written exactly four fiction reviews for The New York Times. They all have something in common:
5/30/06: "undercut by the author's penchant for the cute and the contrived" (Martha McPhee, L'America)
5/19/06: "This setup seems contrived in the extreme, and the book opens with an all-too-cute scene" (Anne Tyler, Digging to America)
4/26/06: "The allusions to King Lear ... feel labored and contrived" (Philip Roth, Everyman)
4/25/06: "it frequently feels synthetic and contrived" (Gary Shteyngart, Absurdistan)
In not one of these reviews, however, does Kakutani suggest how these books, their plots, their characters, or their allusions are "contrived." In her ham-fisted hands, the word itself becomes a contrivance entirely empty of meaning or context; we are expected to rely solely on her authority as a Critic that these books "show effects of planning or manipulation."
This is by no means a new word for our vocabulary-challenged reviewer. Take a look at the Google results; you can also find a number of examples in my previous posts in this series.
Not Cuckoo for Kakutani
Michiko's Teensy-Weensy Thesaurus (April 14 edition)
Michiko's Itsy-Bitsy Thesaurus (April 25 edition)