Book reviews vie for dreaded Hatchet Job award

AP News
Posted: Jan 08, 2013 6:53 AM

LONDON (AP) — A mauling of Martin Amis and a savaging of Salman Rushdie are in the running for the best bad book review of 2012.

Eight finalists were announced Tuesday for the Hatchet Job of the Year Award, a prize set up to reward scathing works of literary journalism.

The nominees include Ron Charles' Washington Post review of Amis' satirical saga "Lionel Asbo" — a "ham fisted novel" full of "blanched stereotypes" — and Zoe Heller's assessment of Rushdie's memoir "Joseph Anton" for the New York Review of Books. Heller slammed the author's "magisterial amour propre" and concluded: "The world is as large and as wide as it ever was; it's just Rushdie who got small."

The prize was founded last year by literary website The Omnivore to reward the "angriest, funniest, most trenchant" review published in a newspaper or magazine. Its serious aim is to raise the profile of book critics and "promote integrity and wit in literary journalism."

"Book reviews are, in the main, too fawning and dull," said Omnivore editor Anna Baddeley.

Finalists for the award also include Richard Evans' assessment of A.N. Wilson's "Hitler: A Short Biography" — "stale, unoriginal material ... banal and cliche-ridden historical judgments" — and Craig Brown's review of "The Odd Couple" by Richard Bradford. Brown dismissed the book about the friendship between writers Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin as "a triumph of 'cut and paste.'"

Last year's inaugural prize was won by Adam Mars-Jones for a review of Michael Cunningham's novel "By Nightfall" that accused the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist of scattering literary allusions like "tin cans tied to a tricycle."

This year's winner, to be announced Feb. 12, will receive a year's supply of potted shrimp from the award's sponsor, a fishmonger.