First, I want to say I love Kakutani: she's always so perceptive, so incisive. So I was surprised to read her review last week of Jonathan Littell's new novel (newly translated from the French, that is) The Kindly Ones in the Times last week:
"The novel’s gushing fans, however, seem to have mistaken perversity for daring, pretension for ambition, an odious stunt for contrarian cleverness. Willfully sensationalistic and deliberately repellent, “The Kindly Ones” — the title is a reference to the Furies, otherwise known in Greek mythology as the Eumenides — is an overstuffed suitcase of a book, consisting of an endless succession of scenes in which Jews are tortured, mutilated, shot, gassed or stuffed in ovens, intercut with an equally endless succession of scenes chronicling the narrator’s incestuous and sadomasochistic fantasies."
"An endless succession of scenes in which Jews are tortured, mutilated, shot, gassed or stuffed in ovens"--isn't that a description of much of the horrors Jews suffered in the Holocaust? Sounds like Kakutani doesn't want to read about that.
I have a review of the book coming out in The Forward next week. I write about how much of recent contemporary Holocaust fiction does not touch upon the reality of Jewish suffering in the Holocaust because it's as if readers don't want to read about it-they've been exposed to it enough, they want tellings of the Holocaust that are infused with hope, hence the likes of recent Hollywood film offerings. It's surprising that Kakutani falls into this camp.