The Many Voices of Michiko Kakutani

Voices of Michiko Kakutani

Holly Golightly, Elle Woods, and Brian Griffin: what do these three have in common? They've all been imitated by Michiko Kakutani over the course of her career as The New York Times' chief book critic. Now, that 38-year career is coming to an end, with the announcement that Kakutani is moving on from the Times. We will miss Kakutani's insightful and accessible essays, which garnered her a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1998. In honor of this luminary of literary criticism, we want to share some of our favorites from Kakutani's sillier side, all accessible with a valid library card through our two databases of the full run of The New York Times. Check out some of the many characters Kakutani has assumed in her writing.

She reviewed Indecision as Holden Caulfield.


For her review of Benjamin Kunkel's novel about a despondent pharmaceutical employee who takes an experimental drug designed to eliminate indecision, Kakutani took on the voice of one of American literature's most famous teenagers: Holden Caulfield, from J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye

She reviewed Bridget Jones's Diary as Ally McBeal.

Bridget Jones's Diary

Before Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary made it to the big screen, Kakutani wrote this biting review of the novel  structured as a letter from TV lawyer Ally McBeal to the title character, lamenting their shared struggle to "find a reasonably nice guy and have a reasonably happy life." By the end, "McBeal" is lashing out at critics "who complain that we're some kind of pre-feminist throwbacks" and inviting Jones to guest star on her show. Could this be the beginning of a beautiful friendship?

She reviewed Summer Crossing as Holly Golightly.

Summer Crossing

Did you know the manic pixie dream girl prototype immortalized by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's was also a literary critic? At least, Kakutani let Holly Golightly write this review of Truman Capote's posthumously published Summer Crossing, which tells the story of the Golightly-esque Grady McNeil. However, any comparisons between McNeil and this review's author are summarily dismissed in the title: "Tru, Dear, There's Only One Holly. Moi."

She reviewed Ready, Steady, Go as Austin Powers.

Ready, Steady, Go

Journalist Shawn Levy wrote this groovy cultural history of London in 1960s, covering the rise of British fashion, art, and rock'n'roll—so who better to review it than Austin Powers, international man of mystery? Kakutani does an admirable job of maintaining Powers' distinctive voice while still offering useful insights into Levy's chronicle of Swinging London.

She reviewed Trading Up as Elle Woods.

Trading Up

Another letter from heroine to heroine: Kakutani turned this review of Candace Bushnell's novel about a ruthless, money-chasing supermodel into a personal note from the star of Legally Blonde, entreating Bushnell's Janey Wilcox to stop "go[ing] around giving Blondes a bad name."

She reviewed The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe as Brian Griffin.

Maf the Dog

This is an unexpected one. Who knew that Michiko Kakutani was enough of a Family Guy fan to nail the voice of talking dog Brian Griffin in this review of Andrew O'Hagan's novel? For what it's worth, Griffin allows that the educated, well-spoken sentient dog Maf is "a credit to his species," but his praise for the pup's character doesn't go far beyond that: "Maf's so snooty he probably has one of those plummy, conceited voices, like Stewie."

Thanks again to Michiko Kakutani for 38 years of great reviews—and quite a few laughs along the way. What are your favorite Michiko Kakutani pieces? Let us know in the comments!