Hatchet Job of the Year Award

February 12, 2013
The Hatchet Job of the Year.
Camilla Long won the Hatchet Job of the Year in London, Feb. 12, 2013.

So I didn’t win the Hatchet Job of the Year award tonight for the meanest book review. So what? Doesn’t bother me at all. It’s a stupid prize, anyhow, given by the Omnivore Web site in England, and you know how clubby those Brits can be. I never stood a chance. . . .

Instead, this evening in London, Camilla Long won for her lacerating review of Rachel Cusk’s “Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation.” She described the book as a nasty, bizarre memoir written by a “brittle little dominatrix and peerless narcissist.”

But the important thing — and I think we can all agree on this — is that these literary prizes are just popularity contests, and everybody knows I deserved to win, and those pants make you look fat.

As the winner, Long received a golden hatchet and a year’s supply of potted shrimp — shrimp sauteed in butter and mace — one of those national delicacies that’s made British food a favorite the world over.

But I’m fine. Really. (Proust never won the Nobel, you know.) And I don’t even like shrimp.

One last look at the brutal finalists before we pass into the obscurity of history:

  • Craig Brown described Richard Bradford’s “The Odd Couple” as  “a triumph of ‘cut and paste’ . . . the most shameless exercise in marketing old rope that I’ve ever come across.”
  • Richard Evans wrote that A.N. Wilson’s new biography of Hitler was a travesty — a collection of stale, unoriginal material, banal, cliché-ridden historical judgements, written in a lame, tired narrative style by a repellently arrogant man.
  • Claire Harman called Andrew Motion’s novel a boring and implausible sequel to “Treasure Island.”
  • Zoë Heller said Salman Rushdie’s memoir, “Joseph Anton,” is written with “lordly nonchalance” by a man who portrays himself as an “an embattled, literary immortal-in-waiting.”
  • Allan Massie wrote that “The Divine Comedy,” by Craig Raine, is a wearisome, self-indulgent, affected, mannered, rather silly sex-obsessed novel.
  • Suzanne Moore couldn’t stand the utter drivel and dumbed-down feminism of “Vagina,” by the infinitely privileged and sheltered Naomi Wolf.
  • And finally, yours truly, described Martin Amis’s meandering novel “Lionel Asbo” as full of class mockery that curdles into a misanthropic vision of human suffering from an author unwilling to exert more effort than it would take to change the channel from “Jersey Shore” to “Half Pint Brawlers.”

Let’s take a breath and remember this little poem by the late, great poet George Garrett:

To a Certain Critic
Walking in the woods, you turn over a rotten log.
Out from under crawls something very snotlike and pale.
If it could open its mouth and talk good English,
you’d know exactly what you sound like to me.

Obviously, he was talking about those other losers. Not me.

charlesr@washpost.com

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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Ron Charles | February 12, 2013