The literary world is well served with unserious awards: the Bulwer-Lytton for awful opening lines, the Oddest Title of the Year, the Bad Sex prize. A relative newcomer, now in its third year, is Britain’s Hatchet Job of the Year, awarded to “the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review”.
Among the eight finalists is the great Craig White, on Distant Intimacy: A Friendship in the Age of the Internet by Frederic Raphael and Joseph Epstein.
It goes, in part, like this:
At times like these, he reminds me of no one so much as Alan Partridge, who, whenever he loses something or trips over, tends to let out an exasperated sigh of: ‘THIS COUNTRY!’
The difference between the two men is that Alan Partridge is a comic creation, whereas Frederic Raphael is not – or, at least, not consciously.
Another, by David Sexton, has a go at Our Very Own Eleanor Catton and her all-conquering The Luminaries.
Hardly a likely winner, but here’s a taste:
The Booker judges knew, whatever else its merits, they were giving the prize to a tremendously technically accomplished piece of work. I suspect some exhausted reviewers praised it for the same reason. It doesn’t necessarily make it any good, of course. A ship made of matchsticks in a bottle is a feat of construction but not necessarily a great work of art.
And, naturally, hatchet ninjustu AA Gill is there, for his review of Morrissey’s autobiography in the Sunday Times.
The following is typical:
What is surprising is that any publisher would want to publish the book, not because it is any worse than a lot of other pop memoirs, but because Morrissey is plainly the most ornery, cantankerous, entitled, whingeing, self-martyred human being who ever drew breath. And those are just his good qualities.
At Slate.com, however, Mark O’Donnell is indignant, thundering, “The Hatchet Job of the Year is a poor excuse for a literary prize”, the “worst of its generation”. He really gets stuck into the thing, calling it a “declawed fight between the Shih Tzus of snark and the lapdogs of smarm”.
I think you probably See What He Did There.