Readersforum's Blog

February 14, 2013

Hatchet Job of the Year goes to assault on Rachel Cusk

Hatchet Job of the YearCamilla Long’s scathing review of Cusk’s memoir Aftermath draws most blood in contest for the best bad review.

By Alison Flood

Camilla Long’s comprehensive shredding of Rachel Cusk’s memoir of her divorce, Aftermath, has won her the Hatchet Job of the Year award for the best worst review of the last 12 months.

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, in a review for the Sunday Times, takes just over 1,000 words to pull Cusk’s memoir to bits, writing the novelist off as “a brittle little dominatrix and peerless narcissist who exploits her husband and her marriage with relish”, and who “describes her grief in expert, whinnying detail”.

Judges Lynn Barber, John Walsh and Francis Wheen chose Long’s write-up ahead of Zoë Heller’s dire 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”, wrote Heller – and Craig Brown’s rejection of Richard Bradford’s The Odd Couple as “a triumph of ‘cut and paste'” as their winner. The Hatchet Job of the Year prize was set up by the Omnivore website to “raise the profile of professional book critics and to promote integrity and wit in literary journalism”. Long, a journalist for the Sunday Times, takes home a golden hatchet and a year’s supply of potted shrimp.

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