Normally, I’m not a fan of Michiko Kakutani’s reviews for the New York Times. But damn, her buzzsaw today through Diane Johnson’s Lulu in Marrakech is a riot.
The bloodletting begins in the second paragraph when Kakutani introduces the book as a “ridiculous new novel.” The critic then goes on to examine the main character’s place in the novel. “That this unobservant, naïve and unresourceful ditz is supposed to be a covert C.I.A. operative, assigned to trace the flow of money from Islamic charities in Marrakech to terrorist groups, is patently absurd, as is the trajectory of the plot, which abruptly moves from the subjects of house parties and romantic triangles to those of rendition and torture,” Kakutani writes.
Johnson’s rendering of the titlular character remains a constant source of irritation for Kakutani. “Although Ms. Johnson makes some halfhearted efforts to explore the psychology of being a spy and the secrecy and betrayal it entails, her portrait of Lulu is so shallow and unconvincing that the reader never for a moment believes she’s a real C.I.A. operative.”
And the eviscerations from Kakutani just get better from there. Be sure to read the entire review.