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Q&A with Michiko Kakutani

For decades the publishers of every book released in the US asked themselves the same question: “What will Michiko Kakutani think?” She started as a critic for the New York Times in 1983 and quickly became the leading arbiter of literary quality in print. She made no attempt to cultivate a public persona outside of her columns, but the opinions she expressed therein were so confident and clear that her authority was unquestioned. At least one writer referred to her as “the voice of God” and she won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1998. More importantly, readers outside the industry responded in the same way, trusting her judgment about authors and turning her favorites into their own.

When the announcement came last year that Kakutani was retiring from her role at the Times, the consensus reaction was one of shock. But she had in recent years grown more and more interested in political and cultural movements that encompass a world wider than literature. She shares snippets from her highly active mind on Twitter (@michikokakutani) and Instagram (@michi_kakutani) and has signed a multi-volume contract with Tim Duggan Books, so her compelling voice will continue to be heard.

Ms. Kakutani was gracious enough to answer a few of my questions about her new book The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump, out this week, and on other subjects. Even better, she shared with us an exclusive list of the greatest writing from or about the Northwest ... continued