Earlier this year I tracked the many appearances of the word messy in Michiko Kakutani’s New York Times book reviews. Today comes the first messy of 2011, in a review of Teju Cole’s novel Open City:
This outlook, combined with Julius’s solemnity about himself, make him a decidedly lugubrious narrator. And Mr. Cole’s failure to dramatize his alienation — or make it emblematic of some larger historical experience, as Sebald did with his displaced characters — impedes the reader’s progress while underscoring the messy, almost ad hoc nature of the overall narrative. What stands out in this flawed novel — so in need of some stricter editing — is Mr. Cole’s ambition, his idiosyncratic voice and his eclectic, sometimes electric journalistic eye.Yes, that’s an agreement error in the first quoted sentence. In need of some stricter editing, yes.
Michiko Kakutani, messy
[One mess in 2011, in a review of Bill Clinton’s Back to Work: “Mr. Clinton lays out various ideas for increasing bank lending and corporate investment, unwinding the mortgage mess and amending tax laws to give corporations incentives to bring more money back to the United States.”]