Feb. 7th, 2013

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So there's this award, Hatchet Job of the Year, that's supposed to go to "the writer of the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review of the past twelve months." You can go look at the nominees; I did, several days ago, and immediately wanted to say something about it, but I waited before posting so as not to be hasty.

I'm not being hasty. Wrong, maybe, but not hasty.

Anyway, I read those eight reviews, and none of them seemed like hatchet jobs to me. When the most damning thing you do in a review is to quote the first page of the novel in question in the fourth paragraph of your review, that isn't a hatchet job.

It is, however, a sad commentary on the stuff getting published as "serious literature" these days.

As, in fact, are all these reviews. They're well-written negative reviews of books that, so far as I can see, thoroughly deserve it. They don't strike me as angry or funny so much as disappointed. "Trenchant," okay, I'll give them trenchant.

I originally visited the page expecting to be amused by witty displays of vitriol, and instead I find myself admiring the critics' writing -- and their patience -- but not laughing at all. I can easily see giving one of these people an award, but calling it "Hatchet Job of the Year" is horribly misleading.

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