I don't recall any of Boyle's previous works as being of any great length -- in fact, I like his *short* fictions: this is 451 pages, A Real Book.
Scott charges Boyle with "writing his own fascinating, unpredictable, alternately hilarious and terrifying fictional history of utopian longing in America." She says utopian longing, I say fanaticism -- but most definitely is it all American. If one were to correctly and politely follow T.C. Boyle's road signs, one would say that it is all about addiction, or as his Dr. John Harvey Kellogg might put it, "auto-intoxication."
A dreary, tedious melodrama -- that's what the first NYT book reviewer said of The Women. Michiko Kakutani almost makes it sound like Boyle has been creatively hijacked by the likes of Kellogg and sexologist Kinsey. She does not seem to "get" that The Road to Wellville and The Inner Circle are not in the least qualified to be reductive, plodding historical fictions. I don't quite understand her theory that the Wagnerian quality of Wright's life overshadowed and outspoke, in a sense, T.C. Boyle's verbal abilities. [I believe T.C. would have had an inkling were that the case.]
I started to count the number of times Kakutani used the unlikely adjective "cheesy," but thought better of it after the first repetition. Two cheesies and the woman is automatically not my good gal pal. Am I a tad defensive of Boyle? Yes, and I know why, and I ain't gonna say, because it is kind of embarrassing.
And so I can't wait to read The Women -- whether it be a cheesy story of no appreciable depth or a sprightly and unique tale of utopian longing. It's bound to be, at least, *quirky* (and American) as all get out.
N.B. Hmmm! As I cleaned up this very messy entry that was initially made in the middle of excitement, and the night, I cruised through some old book reviews. Guess who did one of the NYT reviews for The Inner Circle? I will give you a big old honking hint. It begins:
Though author and subject are well matched, T. C. Boyle's novel about the sexologist Alfred C. Kinsey is a flat and flabby production. Michiko Kakutani, come on down!
I was hoping to avoid further flatus and, thank goodness, Wikipedia has come to my rescue, writing this about Ms. Kakutani:
Salman Rushdie has called her "a weird woman who seems to feel the need
to alternately praise and spank." In a June 2005 interview with Rolling Stone
magazine, author Norman Mailer criticized Kakutani as a "one-woman kamikaze"
(Kakutani is of Japanese descent) who "disdains white male authors" and
deliberately "bring(s) out your review two weeks in advance of publication. She
trashes it just to hurt sales and embarrass the author." Mailer also said that
New York Times editors were "terrified" of Kakutani, and "can't fire her"
because she's "a token," "an Asiatic, a feminist." Moreover, in recent years,
Kakutani's particularly harsh reviews of books by famous authors (e.g., Updike,
The Widows of Eastwick) are followed by (usually milder or openly positive)
reviews of the same titles by other NYT reviewers.
On July 19, 2007, The New York Times published a pre-release story
written by Kakutani about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. An account of
the ensuing controversy, including the critical comments of some Harry Potter
fans, can be found on the Times Public Editor's blog.
Kakutani was criticized for her alleged overuse of the word limn in
her reviews. She was also parodied in the essay "I Am Michiko Kakutani" by one
of her former classmates, Colin McEnroe.
I haven't had such a *pure* laugh in a while -- it was the "limn" comment that did it, as I was sure that The Great American Writer With Whom I Once Lived would have taken that honor...