How did truth become an endangered species in contemporary America? Former New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani examines the cultural forces that contributed to this gathering storm. In social media and literature, television, academia, and politics, she identifies the trends that have combined to elevate subjectivity over factuality, science, and common values.
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.