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Hatchet Job of the Year Award: Shortlist



For immediate release: 10 January 2012

The Omnivore’s Hatchet Job of the Year Award

 Shortlist announced

Mary Beard, Geoff Dyer, Camilla Long, Lachlan Mackinnon, Adam Mars-Jones, Leo Robson, Jenni Russell and David Sexton are today, Tuesday 10 February, announced as the eight shortlisted reviewers for The Omnivore’s first annual Hatchet Job of the Year Award.

The prize will go to the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review published in a newspaper or magazine in 2011, and is being judged by Suzi Feay, Rachel Johnson, Sam Leith and D.J. Taylor.

The Hatchet Job of the Year Award was set up by The Omnivore website to raise the profile of professional book critics and to promote integrity and wit in literary journalism.

The shortlisted reviews are:

·      Mary Beard on Rome by Robert Hughes, Guardian

·      Geoff Dyer on The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, New York Times

·      Camilla Long on With the Kisses of His Mouth by Monique Roffey, Sunday Times

·      Lachlan Mackinnon on Clavics by Geoffrey Hill, Independent

·      Adam Mars-Jones on By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham, Observer

·      Leo Robson on Martin Amis: The Biography by Richard Bradford, New Statesman

·      Jenni Russell on Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital by Catherine Hakim, Sunday Times

·      David Sexton on The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy, London Evening Standard

Anna Baddeley, editor of The Omnivore, explained the shortlisted reviews had been chosen both for their intelligence and entertainment value: “Some are fearless assaults on literary reputations; others raise important questions about the state of publishing. All eight are artful demolitions that can be enjoyed equally by the expert and the general reader.”

The winner will be announced on 7 February 2012 at the Coach & Horses in Soho, one of London’s most famous literary haunts. The winner will receive a year’s supply of potted shrimp – an omnivore – thanks to The Fish Society.

In the meantime, the Omnivore team will be delving into the archives to bring you a selection of literary history’s most savage reviews. Co-editor Fleur Macdonald said: “From Aristophanes on Euripedes to Henry James on Charles Dickens, the literary hatchet job has a long and bloody tradition. We want to encourage a new generation of brave and independent-minded critics.”


Mary Beard on Rome by Robert Hughes, Guardian (2/7/11)

“The first half of the book, especially the three chapters dealing with the early history of Rome, from Romulus to the end of pagan antiquity, is little short of a disgrace – to both author and publisher. It is riddled with errors and misunderstandings that will mislead the innocent and infuriate the specialist.”

Geoff Dyer on The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, New York Times (16/12/11)

“This was not one of those years when the Man Booker Prize winner was laughably bad. No, any extreme expression of opinion about The Sense of an Ending feels inappropriate. It isn’t terrible, it is just so . . . average. It is averagely compelling (I finished it), involves an average amount of concentration and, if such a thing makes sense, is averagely well written: excellent in its averageness!”

Camilla Long on With the Kisses of His Mouth by Monique Roffey, Sunday Times (26/6/11)

“Monique Roffey’s tale of midlife crisis and sexual rebirth is clearly intended to be a soft-porn version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. What she has actually produced is 480 pages of sub-Marie Claire overshare, a pointlessly explicit, infuriatingly naive and, at times, plain offputting slither through a series of — wilfully? maliciously? — unedited sexual slurpings.”

Lachlan Mackinnon on Clavics by Geoffrey Hill, Independent (3/6/11)

“This book, all as easy on ear and mind as its opening, is really the sheerest twaddle … Writing this bad cannot earn the kind of attention Hill demands; he is wasting his time and trying to waste ours.”

Adam Mars-Jones on By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham, Observer (23/1/11)

“Nothing makes a novel seem more vulnerable, more naked, than an armour-plating of literary references. If you’re constantly referring to landmarks, it doesn’t make you look as if you’re striding confidently forward – it makes you look lost.”

Leo Robson on Martin Amis: The Biography by Richard Bradford, New Statesman (14/11/11)

“It is neither exciting nor penetrating. It is neither coherent nor convincing. It is characterised by surreal laziness … and surreal bossiness … It is full of repetition, contradictions and small, avoidable errors: Bradford seems to get things slightly wrong almost as a matter of principle. It is also full of spectacularly bad writing – about spectacularly good writing.”

Jenni Russell on Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital by Catherine Hakim, Sunday Times(21/8/11)

“Selling the sex you don’t personally want to have as the route to personal development, confidence and happiness? Driving merciless bargains with men for every erotic encounter? If this is what counts as intellectual discovery at the London School of Economics, or Allen Lane, who publish Hakim, I fear for the future both of universities and of serious books.”

David Sexton on The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy, London Evening Standard (22/9/11)

“It all feels very GCSE … there’s too much verbal prancing, too little that’s original being said, particularly when the poems are not personal. You end the book thinking that if this is poetry, it’s a trivial art. But it is not.”


For more information, visit or contact:

Anna on 07740867275 /

Fleur on 07799891825 /

Follow @theomnivore on Twitter

Notes to editors

The Omnivore ( aggregates press reviews of books, films and plays. With a fast growing database of more than 10,000 roundups, featuring quotes from all the critics and links to full reviews, The Omnivore makes it easier to choose what to read and watch next. It is run by Anna Baddeley and Fleur Macdonald.

The judges: Suzi Feay is a journalist and former literary editor of the Independent on Sunday; Rachel Johnson is a journalist, novelist and editor-in-chief of The Lady; Sam Leith is a journalist, novelist, former literary editor of the Telegraph; D.J. Taylor is a journalist, novelist and biographer.

One Comment leave one →
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