Rushdie, Amis targeted in critical maulings of 2012

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Their status as literary
heavyweights could not save them from the savage sarcasm of the

Novelists Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie and former poet
laureate Andrew Motion were all up for critical mauling of the
year in a shortlist published on Tuesday.

"Hatchet Job of the Year", run by British literary criticism
website The Omnivore, was set up to celebrate serious book
reviewing which organisers said was a dying art in the age of
Amazon, blogs and Twitter.

Now in its second year, it is awarded to the "angriest,
funniest, most trenchant book review" of the past 12 months, and
this year's winner will be chosen from eight nominees.

Among those with the harshest verdicts over the last year
were Ron Charles of the Washington Post for his review of Amis's
"Lionel Asbo", and Zoe Heller for her critique of Rushdie's
memoir "Joseph Anton" in the New York Review of Books.

"Critics' quills were noticeably sharper in 2012," said Anna
Baddeley, The Omnivore editor. "But there is still a long way to
go. Book reviews are, in the main, too fawning and dull."

While the reviews do not reflect overall reaction to the
works in question, Charles said Lionel Asbo served up "blanched
stereotypes on the silver platter of his (Amis's) prose as
though it contained enough spice to entertain or even shock.

"Does any other truly great writer make us wonder whether
his brilliant parts are worth the wearisome whole?" wrote
Charles, the first U.S. critic to be included.

Heller took Rushdie to task for what she called his
"magisterial amour propre.

"Some readers may find, by the end of Joseph Anton, that the
world feels rather smaller and grimmer than before. But they
should not be unduly alarmed. The world is as large and as wide
as it ever was; it's just Rushdie who got small."

Motion, poet laureate until 2009, fell foul of the London
Evening Standard's Claire Harman for his "Silver: A Return to
Treasure Island", in which she described the characters "as
wooden as absent Silver's leg."

In the Mail on Sunday, Craig Brown accused Richard Bradford
of plagiarising himself in "The Odd Couple", while Allan Massie
damned Craig Raine with faint praise in the Scotsman, writing of
"The Divine Comedy" that "Raine can spell. That much must be

Following is a list of nominees for the Hatchet Job of the
Year Award, which will be announced on Feb. 12, and the winner
will receive a year's supply of potted shrimp.

- Craig Brown on The Odd Couple by Richard Bradford, Mail on

- Ron Charles on Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis, Washington Post

- Richard Evans on Hitler: A Short Biography by A.N. Wilson,
New Statesman

- Claire Harman on Silver: A Return to Treasure Island by
Andrew Motion, London Evening Standard

- Zoe Heller on Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie, New York
Review of Books

- Camilla Long on Aftermath by Rachel Cusk, Sunday Times

- Allan Massie on The Divine Comedy by Craig Raine, Scotsman

- Suzanne Moore on Vagina by Naomi Wolf, Guardian.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White)