Axes to grind

Leo Robson makes the inaugural Hatchet Job Of The Year Award shortlist

A new literary award is born, as if the world needed another. Though this one, at least, is a little different in tone. Review aggregator website The Omnivore has just released its inaugural Hatchet Job Of The Year Award shortlist. Call it cruel, or a witty intervention on the literary landscape (the prize is a year's supply of potted shrimp courtesy of The Fish Society) it is certainly well poised to garner attention. Not least thanks to the collection of reviewers (and harshly reviewed books) on its shortlist, which includes Geoff Dyer's careful dissection of Julian Barnes's Booker winner, The Sense of an Ending, and Leo Robson's New Statesman review of Richard Bradford's biography of Martin Amis (read it here). Call me soft, but I can't help feeling bad for the reviewed authors, as years of work wins them recognition only for how their book inspired a top-notch mauling. But as a celebration of "integrity and wit in literary journalism" - two things often lacking in the review pages of the national press - the initiative should be applauded.

The shortlist in full:

- Mary Beard on Rome by Robert Hughes, Guardian

- Geoff Dyer on The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, New York Times

- Camilla Long on With the Kisses of His Mouth by Monique Roffey, Sunday Times

- Lachlan Mackinnon on Clavics by Geoffrey Hill, Independent

- Adam Mars-Jones on By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham, Observer

- Leo Robson on Martin Amis: The Biography by Richard Bradford, New Statesman

- Jenni Russell on Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital by Catherine Hakim, Sunday Times

- David Sexton on The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy, London Evening Standard

 

 

 

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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On Wheels

A new poem by Patrick Mackie

The hills swarm and soften towards the end of the day just as
flames do in a fireplace as the evening
loosens and breaks open and lets out night.
A nasty, grotesque, impatient year ended,
and the new one will be bitter,
tired, opaque. Words wrangle in every inch of air,
their mouths wide open in stupid shock
at what they have just heard every time they hear anything. Venus,
though, blazes with heavy wobbles of albeit frozen
light. Brecht, who I like to call my
brother just as he called Shelley his,
has a short late poem where he sits by a roadside, waiting
while someone changes the wheel on his car,
watching with impatience, despite not liking
either the place that he is coming from or
the place that he is going to. We call it
connectivity when in truth it is just aggression
and imitation writ ever larger. Poems, though,
are forms of infinite and wry but also briskly
impatient patience. Brecht’s poem seems to end,
for instance, almost before you
can read it. It wheels. The goddess is just a big, bright
wilderness but then soon enough she clothes
herself again in the openness of night and I lose her.

Patrick Mackie’s latest collection, The Further Adventures Of The Lives Of The Saints, is published by CB Editions.

This article first appeared in the 18 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Age of Lies

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