A moan about Morrissey, a scathing critique of Douglas Coupland and a bitter verdict on Donna Tartt are contenders for Britain's Hatchet Job award, honouring the year's most cutting book reviews.
Eight finalists announced Tuesday include A.A. Gill's verdict on Autobiography by former Smiths lead singer Morrissey — "utterly devoid of insight, warmth, wisdom or likability" — and Peter Kemp's dismissal of Tartt's best-selling novel The Goldfinch: "a turkey."
The Hatchet Job award was established in 2011 by literary website The Omnivore to honour "the angriest, funniest, most trenchant" review published in a newspaper or magazine.
It has received criticism for rewarding mean-spiritedness, but organizers say the tongue-in-cheek contest has a serious purpose: to encourage reviewers to be fearless.
Omnivore co-editor Anna Baddeley said the prize also "celebrates the book pages and gets people reading reviews."
Prominent books on the savage shortlist include Canadian-born New Zealander Eleanor Catton's Booker Prize-wining The Luminaries — reviewer David Sexton was unimpressed — and Paul Theroux's African travelogue The Last Train to Zona Verde, which struck Hedley Twidle as "offensive and plain bizarre."
The other finalists include Lucy Ellmann's appalled review of Vancouver author Coupland's Worst. Person. Ever; Rachel Cook's scathing verdict on Strictly Ann, the autobiography of Ann Widdecombe; and Craig Brown's acerbic assessment of Distant Intimacy by Joseph Epstein and Frederic Raphael.
Raphael also is nominated as a reviewer, for his smack-down of John le Carré's A Delicate Truth.
The winner, to be announced Feb. 11, will receive a year's supply of potted shrimp from the award's sponsor, a fishmonger.