Still think book critics are too nice these days? You won't after reading the scathing reviews nominated for this year's Hatchet Job of the Year. The awards were launched last year by British review aggregator The Omnivore, and this year they return to help the negative review "regain its competitive edge." And the reviews on a new shortlist released Tuesday morning take swipes at some of today's biggest celebrity authors — swipes that are even meaner than you might expect.
Take for instance The Washington Post's Ron Charles, who offered this assessment of Martin Amis's Lionel Asbo:
As Amis’s class mockery curdles, we’re left with a misanthropic vision of human suffering compounded by venality and lust. The novel’s meandering middle section has the grating tone of an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies sketched on the back of an envelope by England’s finest stylist.
If that isn't trenchant enough for you, how about Suzanne Moore's review for The Guardian arguing that in Naomi Wolf's book Vagina,
... feminism becomes simply a highly mediated form of narcissism devoid of any actual brain/politics connection. What we have here is Californication, with a little trot through some basic women's studies linking female creativity with sexual awakening. Think Georgia O'Keeffe with bit of Anaïs Nin thrown in.
And here's Zoë Heller, who gets a nomination for her heroic New York Review of Books takedown of Salman Rushdie:
One is struck here ... by the lordly nonchalance with which Rushdie places himself alongside Lawrence, Joyce, and Nabokov in the ranks of literary merit ... A man living under threat of death for nine years is not to be blamed for occasionally characterizing his plight in grandiloquent terms. But one would hope that when recollecting his emotions in freedom and safety, he might bring some ironic detachment to bear on his own bombast. Hindsight, alas, has had no sobering effect on Rushdie's magisterial amour propre. An unembarrassed sense of what he is owed as an embattled, literary immortal-in-waiting pervades his book.
Yikes! It's enough to make any writer just coming out of his fatwa shell desperately want to crawl back in.
These and five other reviews will go head-to-head on February 12. If prizes stay the same as last year, the winner will receive an entire year's supply of potted shrimp.