Authors wince at pick of year’s most insulting book reviews

Jan 9, 2013

Rushdie, Wolf and Amis among targets as shortlist for Hatchet Job of the Year reviews is announced

SOME OF the world’s leading writers were blasted by vicious book reviews last year – and now the critics who wrote them are up for the Hatchet Job of the Year award.

The Omnivore, a website that rounds up reviews, set up the annual prize two years ago for the "writer of the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review”.

The shortlist for the 2013 prize includes critiques of books by such heavyweights as Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, Naomi Wolf and Andrew Motion. Their work, all released in 2012, was described variously as "drivel”, "a travesty” and "a triumph of cut and paste”.

Here is a selection of the nominees:

  •  Ron Charles’s Washington Post review of Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis pointed out that Amis left London for Brooklyn, and concluded "If Lionel Asbo is the sort of ham-fisted novel we get in the bargain maybe we should send him back.” Charles accused Amis of filling his book with "blanched stereotypes.”
  • Zoe Heller’s piece on Salman Rushdie in the New York Review of Books was a sustained attack on Joseph Anton. "Some readers may find, by the end of Joseph Anton, that the world feels rather smaller and grimmer than before. The world is as large and as wide as it ever was; it’s just Rushdie who got small,” she wrote.
  • Naomi Wolf’s new book Vagina was described acidly as "self-help marketed as feminism” by Suzanne Moore in The Guardian. Moore added: "So much of Wolf's work is utter drivel.”
  • Plenty of bad books have been written about Hitler, but Richard Evans in the New Statesman asked simply: Is A Short Biography by A N Wilson "the worst one ever written?” Evans described the Hitler biog as a "travesty”.
  • Richard Bradford has written biographies of Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin, but his book The Odd Couple is merely those two previous efforts cut and pasted together, claimed Craig Brown in the Daily Mail. He said: "By now Bradford must be able to press the Command button and C for Copy simultaneously in his sleep.”
  • Former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion’s book Silver: A Return to Treasure Island didn’t impress Claire Harman in the Evening Standard. She accused the poet of "verbiage”.

The winner of the Hatchet Job of the Year will be announced on February 12. The prize is a year’s supply of potted shrimps.

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