It’s quite possible that the folks at the New York Times were sitting on this obit for a while, waiting for Styron to kick the bucket. After all, Vincent Canby’s infamous Bob Hope obituary appeared three years after Canby himself had expired. Even so, it’s something of a shock to see that Michiko actually liking a novelist. Go through her archives and you’re not going to find a rave for a fiction book until her February review of Dana Spiotta’s Eat the Document.
So what are we to make of this? Is this a critic who can no longer feel the thrills of ficitve immersion? I’m not against negative reviews (far from it). And Michiko has had no problems these days passing plaudits for nonfiction books.
I’m not asking for Michiko to turn into a Harriet Klausner. But when a critic goes nine months without actually liking anything, one must ask why she bothers to cover fiction in the first place. Sure, there are a lot of dogs out there right now. (Lisey’s Story, I’m looking at you!) But this being the autumn publishing season, there are any number of books to be enthusiastic about right now.