LONDON Feb 13 A review belitting award-winning
British novelist Rachel Cusk's memoir of her bitter divorce as
"poetic whimsy and vague literary blah" has won an annual prize
for most competently trashing a literary work.
The "Hatchet Job of the Year", run by British literary
criticism website The Omnivore, was set up to promote integrity
and wit in literary jouralism and is awarded to the "angriest,
funniest, most trenchant book review".
Literary heavyweights are as game for a public mauling as
lesser known writers with reviews of works by novelists Martin
Amis and Salman Rushdie and former poet laureate Andrew Motion
among the shortlist for the 2013 award.
But a panel of three journalists and writers chose Sunday
Times journalist Camilla Long over seven others as the winner
for the second annual award for her review of "Aftermath".
Long, who wins a year's supply of potted shrimp, described
the book as bizarre and "a needy, neurotic mandolin solo of
reflections on child sacrifice and asides about drains".
"I thought what was wonderful about Camilla's review was
that it totally hatcheted the book, but in such an intriguing
way that I then thought I must read "Aftermath" - and did, and
loved it because it was just as weird as Camilla said," said
judge Lynn Barber, a Sunday Times journalist, in a statement.
"So a hatchet job isn't necessarily a turnoff."
Among those with the harshest verdicts over the last year
were Ron Charles of the Washington Post for his review of Amis's
"Lionel Asbo", and Zoe Heller for her critique of Rushdie's
memoir "Joseph Anton" in the New York Review of Books.
Heller took Rushdie to task for what she called his
"magisterial amour propre."
Motion, poet laureate until 2009, fell foul of the London
Evening Standard's Claire Harman for his "Silver: A Return to
Treasure Island", in which she described the characters "as
wooden as absent Silver's leg."
In the Mail on Sunday, Craig Brown accused Richard Bradford
of plagiarising himself in "The Odd Couple", while Allan Massie
damned Craig Raine with faint praise in the Scotsman, writing of
"The Divine Comedy" that "Raine can spell. That much must be
Suzanne Moore of The Guardian slated Naomi Wolf's biography
"Vagina," saying much of her work is "utter drivel" while
Richard Evans in the New Statesman wrote that A.N. Wilson's
judgments in "Hitler: A Short Biography" were "breathtaking in
But the authors savaged by reviewers may yet have their
revenge. Long is currently at work on her first book.
(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith)