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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012 12:04 pm
Good Prize for Bad Review
Posted by: Keir Graff

As reported by Jill Lawless (Lucy, your long-lost sister is a reporter!) in the Associated Press, the brand-new Hatchet Job of the Year Award will celebrate “the angriest, funniest, most trenchant” book review of 2011. The winner will receive a year’s supply of something called potted shrimp (courtesy of the Fish Society)—so you know the reviewers won’t be panning books in hopes of receiving a great wad of cash. They’ll be doing it because they love it.

Arts aggregator The Omnivore set up the prize, and editor Fleur Macdonald says they’re not celebrating “gratuitously vicious reviews.”

“We are celebrating reviews that are well written, that have a point, that are insightful and also are entertaining,” she said. “There are too many reviews that are a bit bland.”

Hear, hear. Shortlisted reviewer Camilla Long called Monique Roffey’s With the Kisses of His Mouth “a pointlessly explicit, infuriatingly naive and, at times, plain off-putting slither through a series of—willfully? maliciously?—unedited sexual slurpings.” (Actually, the book doesn’t sound all that bad.)

With The Hatchet Job joining the Bad Sex Award, I think we in the U.S. now have to admit that the UK literary award scene is officially 100% more entertaining than ours. Although, if Alexander Nazaryan of the New York Post follows his inclination, perhaps soon we’ll have our own Worst Book Reviewer Award to liven things up (“Why Adam Langer Is the Worst Book Reviewer in America“).

Actually, I don’t think that’s such a great idea.

But what do you think? Should Booklist celebrate its negative reviews along with its positive reviews?


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