January 15, 2014
Shortlist for Hatchet Job of the Year is announced
by Julia Fleischaker
Any author with a new book dreams of the reviews. From the biggest newspaper to the smallest blog, every review is a chance to have your hard work recognized—your book called out for the masterpiece it is, or at least appreciated for being enjoyable. With one review, readers will finally learn about the book that has consumed your life for years.
Or, you know, not. The Omnivore has just announced the shortlist for their 2014 Hatchet Job of the Year Award, for “the writer of the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review of the past twelve months. “ According to the website, “It aims to raise the profile of professional critics and to promote integrity and wit in literary journalism. The prize is a year’s supply of potted shrimp, courtesy of The Fish Society.”
So who are the trenchant, and angry, hatchet wielders that were selected as the angriest, and who are the lucky authors that were their targets? Here are selections from the nominated reviews; as you can see, general and widespread acclaim can’t save an author from the rage of the angry book reviewer. Books by Donna Tartt, John Le Carre, and Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton are all represented. Visit The Omnivore’s website to see the reviews in full.
Craig Brown reviews Distant Intimacy: A Friendship in the Age of the Internet by Frederic Raphael and Joseph Epstein in The Mail on Sunday:
The first thing to be said about their exchanges is how extraordinarily unpleasant they are, almost as though they were trying to make it into the Guinness Book Of Records under a section called Authors, Most Bilious. It is all a bit like watching a tennis match, but instead of the competitors bashing balls to and fro, they prefer to bash authors and artists more successful than themselves.
Rachel Cooke reviews Strictly Ann: The Autobiography by Ann Widdecombe in The Observer:
In some quarters, one gathers, Widdecombe’s woeful performance on Strictly Come Dancing unaccountably won her national treasure status. Luckily, her memoir stands as a corrective to that, even as it seeks to cash in on it. Alas, there are, it seems, aspects of her character more ugly and confused even than her paso doble.
Lucy Ellmann reviews Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland in The Guardian:
ALL OF culture is being sucked down the plughole and the philistines can’t hear our screams! Bad books, bad movies, bad art. Novels are no longer about thinking, they’re just vortices of cliche. The race is now on to write the Worst. Book. Ever. And this may be it.
AA Gill reviews Autobiography by Morrisey in The Sunday Times:
The publication of Autobiography was the second item on Channel 4’s news on the day it was released. Krishnan Guru-Murthy excitably told the nation that Morrissey really could write — presumably he was reading from an Autocue — and a pop journalist thrilled that he was one of the nation’s greatest cultural icons. He isn’t even one of Manchester’s greatest cultural icons.
Peter Kemp reviews The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt in The Sunday Times:
Outdoing even The Little Friend, famously a decade in the writing, The Goldfinch has taken 11 years to appear. These epic gestations are attributed by awed Tartt admirers and devotees of websites such as Donna Tartt Shrine to uncompromising perfectionism. “It’s because of perfectionism that man walked on the moon and painted the Sistine Chapel, OK? Perfectionism is good,” she has stressed. But it’s hard to spot much of it in this ineptly put-together book.
Frederic Raphael (himself the subject of Craig Brown’s review!) reviews A Delicate Truth by John le Carre in The TLS:
Le Carré affects, as so often, to be making daring revelations about How Things Really Work. In the clever process, he stretches his thrills with mixed clichés, idiosyncratic phrases (can people “go faint at the knees”?) and witless dialogue whaleboned with “he retorted stiffly” and the like.
David Sexton reviews The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton in the London Evening Standard:
YOU KNOW what it’s like when you find a book you really can’t put down? One that seems so urgent to stay with you carry on reading when you should be sleeping or working or remembering your Tube stop? A book that seems more compelling than life itself? Such a great feeling!
Well, Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker-winning 832-pager, The Luminaries, is the opposite—in my experience, anyway.
Hedley Twidle reviews The Last Train to Zona Verde by Paul Theroux in The New Statesman:
The rhetoric is so offensive and plain bizarre to anyone making her or his life in “Africa” that I had no option but to pretend that we were in a different genre, to keep imagining the book as a comic novel with a deliberately unlikeable narrator.
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.