A scathing takedown of Canadian-born writer Rachel Cusk's divorce memoir has earned the Hatchet Job of the Year Award, which a tongue-in-cheek celebration of biting book reviews.
The latest winner of the prize is Camilla Long for her Sunday Times review of Cusk's book Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation.
Long — who receives a golden hatchet and a year's supply of potted shrimp from the award's fishmonger sponsor — said she hoped the award would encourage "thrilling, wild, exciting criticism."
Aftermath is "crammed with mad, flowery metaphors and highfalutin creative-writing experiments," Long charges in her review of the book.
She also blasts novelist Cusk — the Canadian-born, U.S.-raised author of A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother, Saving Agnes and Arlington Park — for leaving large gaps in her "quite simply, bizarre" account of marital collapse.
"While I know some readers will find comfort in her searing, elegaic words, and her 'painfully honest' but extremely fetching dismemberment of personal despair, she leaves out too much narrative detail for me," Long wrote.
"This is a pity, as confessional writing is meant to be about truth — the whole truth."
Introduced in 2012, the Hatchet Job Award seeks out "the most trenchant" English-language book reviewers and aims to champion the art of professional criticism. It was established by review aggregating website The Omnivore, with Adam Mars-Jones winning the inaugural edition for his skewering of Pulitzer-winner Michael Cunningham's By Nightfall.
According to organizer Fleur Macdonald, the intention is to "encourage fearless and honest reviewing."
Typically, established writers — who are strong enough to take it, according to organizers — are the ones in the reviewers' crosshairs. Long's review, for instance, beat out critiques of a pair of British heavyweights: Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie.