Author gets too personal with Michiko Kakutani

New York Times book critic puts the kibosh on flirty classifieds.

Topics: The New York Times, Books,

When novelist Leslie Epstein sent mash notes to New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani through the small classifieds at the bottom of the Gray Lady’s front page, he intended them, he says, in a playful spirit. The critic, however, didn’t want to play.

Epstein’s first feeler, which ran Oct. 29 on the front page of the Times, pleaded: “DEAR SWEET MISS MICHIKO K. — Call your Leib Goldkorn.” On Thursday, the Times’ advertising acceptability department received a call from Kakutani. She was upset about Epstein’s campaign and demanded that the paper squelch his Nov. 15 ad, which was to read: “YOO-HOO! MY CUTE KAKUTANI! — Leib Goldkorn is calling.” Two other ads bit the dust as well.

Goldkorn is the bumbling 94-year-old protagonist of three of Epstein’s books, most recently “Ice Fire Water,” which received warm reviews in the Los Angeles Times and the Sunday New York Times Book Review. Kakutani had given her own stamp of approval to Epstein’s 1985 “Goldkorn Tales.”

“Apparently she was unhappy and complained here,” said Bob Smith, the Times’ acceptability department manager. “Not to me personally, but complained. As we would do with any other person if their name is in an ad and they object, we got it out of there.”

What if Mayor Giuliani, who also figured in one of Epstein’s ads (“WHO TOOK RUDY GIULIANI’S TOUPEE? — Leib Goldkorn!”), demanded that the newspaper pull his name from the campaign, as he did over a series of New York magazine bus ads in 1997? “We try not to make judgments on hypothetical situations,” Smith said. “Now, if you’re talking about public officials, there’s probably a different slant on it. But in this case, here was a person who was clearly disturbed to have her name used this way, so we took it out.”

Did whoever initially signed off on the ads in October recognize Kakutani’s name? “I can’t speak for them,” Smith said. In any case, if they didn’t know who she was then, they do now. “Needless to say, at the time the ads were approved, we didn’t have any idea that anyone would be disturbed by them,” Smith went on, adding that he hadn’t seen the ads himself before they were cleared.



Epstein, who spent nearly all of his $10,000 advance on the campaign (despite the suggestion from his publisher, W.W. Norton, that he invest in something more conventional), has been left bewildered, if not bereft, by Kakutani’s response to his publicity stunt. “It’s a parody of the ‘Jewish women light your candles’ ad,” he says. “It’s a parody of the personals ad.”

He expects to get at least $3,000 back for the cancelled ads. Before asking the Times for a refund, however, he suggested a series of replacement ads to Smith, one of which would have read: “MY LOVE — Why do you wish to censor Leib Goldkorn?” The Times turned him down.

Kakutani did not return a call for comment.

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>