Hatchet Job of the Year

Fiercest Book Critic of 2012? Camilla Long Had The Year’s Sharpest Hatchet

In News Blog by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

Last month, we took a look at the eight finalists vying for the honor of having written the best worst review of 2012. And we now have a winner.

As The Guardian put it, “Camilla Long’s comprehensive shredding of Rachel Cusk’s memoir of her divorce, Aftermath has won her the Hatchet Job of the Year award.”

The paper points out that while Cusk took 160 pages to detail the end of her marriage and how her life fell apart “like a jigsaw dismantled into a heap of broken-edged pieces.” Long’s review in the Sunday Times needed just over 1,000 words to “pull Cusk’s memoir to bits,” while dismissing the novelist as “a brittle little dominatrix and peerless narcissist who exploits her husband and her marriage with relish,” who “describes her grief in expert, whinnying detail.”

Judges Lynn Barber, John Walsh and Francis Wheen selected Long’s review just ahead of Zoe Heller’s brutal review of Salman Rushdie’s memoir Joseph Anton, (“an unembarrassed sense of what he is owed as an embattled literary immortal-in-waiting pervades his book,” and Craig Brown’s thorough rejection of Richard Bradford’s The Odd Couple as “a triumph of ‘cut and paste.’”

The Hatchet Job of the Year prize was established by the Omnivore website to “raise the profile of professional book critics and to promote integrity and wit in journalism.” Long, a journalist for the Sunday Times gets the honor of taking home the highly coveted golden hatchet along with a year’s supply of potted shrimp.

“I thought what was wonderful about Camille’s review,” Barber is quoted as saying, “was that it totally hatcheted the book but in such an intriguing way that I then thought I must read Aftermath — and did, and loved it because it was just as weird as Camilla said.  So a hatchet job isn’t necessarily a turnoff.”

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for children's publishing and media. He's also the author of more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers, a restaurant critic, and a literary blogger.