If The Death of Truth, her fiery takedown of the culture of lies personified by the presidency of Donald Trump is any indication, her voice soon may become as influential in the world of politics as it was in literary culture ... Unlike conventional political commentators, however, she digs deeper to seek out the 'roots of falsehood in the Trump era.' It’s here that her immersion in literature provides a fresh perspective on our current dilemma.
This is a slim, quick read that at its best feels like a kind of annotated syllabus for a popular college class with a charismatic teacher, the kind that would be oversubscribed two minutes past midnight. At its worst, it feels like spending a few hours scrolling through the #Resist hashtag on Twitter ... Kakutani is, obviously, nothing if not well read, but the book is so full of citations and allusions it can almost feel as though the author’s own argument is getting lost, if there is an original argument to be found at all ... The best moments come from unnerving historical nuggets and finds ... when Kakutani tries to articulate in her own words just what it is we are witnessing at this moment in time, as new authoritarian forms of manipulation take root across the globe, her descriptions fall flat ... It is the very nature of our current crisis that the sensory overload and resulting mental exhaustion make clarity, specificity and precision all the more urgent. The Death of Truth honors that project without really succeeding in executing it.
Michiko Kakutani is the squirrel who remembers the nuts. Her slender, fiery new book, The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump...could have been written only by someone who reads more, and retains more, than most mere mortals ... In the book’s most dazzling section, Kakutani dissects how postmodernism and deconstruction, formerly the dual darlings of lefty academics everywhere, have been co-opted by dark forces on the right ... In The Death of Truth, she shows true, passionate anger.
While others have established a historical context for today’s political polarization, none has so meticulously excavated the conceptual strata ... Kakutani has issued an elegantly well-argued and profoundly illuminating call to protest.
What Kakutani brings to the narrative is her wide literary referent and an ability to nail an opponent with flair ... These observations are not meant to convince but to create nods of assent. I’m guessing that most readers who pick up a book critical of Trump by the former New York Times book critic will have noticed that Fox News has many viewers and that they probably aren’t among them ... There is little analysis here, and the book feels thirsty for it. When Kakutani does venture political analysis, she can misstep ... She’s on much better footing when she’s looking at the world through books ... So far, Kakutani’s move from book critic to political observer is only partially successful. She’s best when she sticks to smart texts. As a person who lives inside this world of books, I had hoped her vision on the world would be clearer. Apparently, it’s not easy lifting your focus from the page.
...pointed and penetrating ... Kakutani, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former chief book critic for the New York Times, draws on her vast literary knowledge (she quotes dozens of writers, from Hannah Arendt to Tom Wolfe) to pen truth’s obituary in the era of Trump ... The Death of Truth offers a clear-eyed, eloquent assessment of the current predicament. For those who may think criticism of Trump is overblown, this book is essential for understanding the corrosive effects of an ongoing, relentless assault on truth.
The Death of Truth is a slim volume that's equally intriguing and frustrating, an uneven effort from a writer who is, nonetheless, always interesting to read ... It's intriguing, if not entirely convincing. Deceit in politics and fiery reactionary rhetoric predate postmodernism, and it's fair to say that the majority of those showing up at Trump's rallies (or the majority of people in general) don't make it a habit to read the works of philosopher Jacques Derrida. To be fair, Kakutani acknowledges this, but the connection she draws between postmodernism and Trumpism still seems too tenuous to be of much use. Kakutani finds herself on stronger footing when she discusses the linguistics behind Trump's speeches and tweets ... Kakutani is clearly sharp, and her arguments can be convincing. But nothing in the book breaks new ground.
...a brief but potent dive into our era’s decline of reason, distortion of reality, prevalence of disinformation, and the vile little man fomenting much of it all. It’s a book delivered with a built-in audience, one hungering for the kakistocracy that is the Trump presidency to get Kakutanied with the same intellectual rigor and ruthless humor she once administered to Norman Mailer, John Updike, Jonathan Franzen, and Bill Clinton, among many others ... But for all it offers, The Death Of Truth can’t help but feel a bit skimpy, a rush job riding the wave of anti-Trump books. Enjoy your retirement, but please don’t abandon us, Kakutani. We need the critic as much as we need books.
The Death of Truth is not a heartening read, nor necessarily an instructive one, and is occasionally an enraging one. But it’s part of a group of works by dogged, reason-wielding intellectuals that necessarily remind us not give in to apathy, or be seduced by the normalization of lies.
Through it all, Kakutani’s strong presence sometimes disappears in a tangled wood of allusion and quotation. Still, she sees—and ably describes—with a depressing clarity the dangers of our brave new world ... A stark sermon to the choir that urges each member to sing—loudly and ceaselessly.
Kakutani offers a sophisticated, wide-ranging exploration of theories of propaganda and debased speech and their insidious effects. Unfortunately, she takes her critique to extremes, likening Trump to Hitler, Lenin, and Mussolini, conjuring omnipotent conspiracies of Kremlin-backed tweeters, and spying totalitarian portents everywhere. Like much anti-Trump ire, Kakutani’s polemic trades in the same histrionics that it deplores.
Donald Trump lies. This is not news. Multiple media outlets keep track of his lies — in May, the list topped 3,000 falsehoods over 466 days in office. Many are innocuous, though revealing. For example, his claim that more people attended his inauguration than Barack Obama’s. Others are more pernicious, such as his assertion that millions of illegal votes were cast in the election on 2016. On the PolitiFact scorecard, most of what he says falls into the categories ‘mostly false,’ ‘false’ and ‘pants on fire.’ … No wonder that in her pointed and penetrating book, Michiko Kakutani laments the death of truth. Kakutani…draws on her vast literary knowledge…to pen truth’s obituary in the era of Trump … writing with clarity and force about the president’s ‘assault on language,’ which is ‘not confined to a torrent of lies, but extends to his taking of words and principles intrinsic to the rule of law and contaminating them with personal agendas and political partisanship.’