Hatchet Man Hatcheted

Reading Ovid of late, I’m used to people getting their ironic comeuppance, so I was delighted by this article in the Japan Times (referenced by The Literary Saloon), in which Adam Mars-Jones, winner of the Hatchet Job of the Year Award for this review, has his latest book hatcheted.

It does sound a strange thing to write a book on Yasujiro Ozu when you know little about him or his work. Mind you, I wouldn’t put it beyond Obooki to do much the same: I seem to recall attacking the writings of Donald Richie too not so long ago.

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6 thoughts on “Hatchet Man Hatcheted

  1. By Nightfall tells a story of midlife crisis averted, when Peter is sexually tempted by his brother-in-law (young and messed up, with a certain amount of bisexual history). Cunningham is a gay writer who wants, as so many of us do, to achieve a mainstream readership – he succeeded with The Hours – but here he stacks the odds against himself. Gay male readers tend to feel that their lives haven’t been squeezed dry by novelists, not just yet, and may resist even a convincing portrait of a heterosexual man. Others may feel cheated when Peter finds he’s not quite as straight as he thought.

    What a bizarre paragraph that is from Mars-Jones’s review. He seems to be suggesting 1) that gay readers are only interested in reading books with gay protagonists, and 2) that there are other readers only interested in books with straight protagonists, who are likely to feel misled by Cunningham’s novel. I’m sure such readers exist (though not in significant quantities), but Mars-Jones doesn’t seem much inclined to distance himself from their attitudes. Indeed, I rather suspect that point 1) expresses some of his own mixed-up feelings, and that point 2) was added in part to disguise that. It’s hard not to get the impression that one gay writer is miffed at another (more successful) gay writer for not writing about gays, as if there’s some duty to be forever satisfying gay readers with stories about ‘their’ lives, and that the only reason for a gay writer wanting to shirk that duty is an ignoble desire for mainstream success.

  2. I find the Japan Times article very amusing, the other one rather a bit disturbing, especially the passage Captain Ned quoted.

  3. Yes, I know, gay writer being bitchy about another gay writer – he’s playing so against stereotype.

    There was that discussion on The Guardian the other week about whether there was really a literary establishment. Well, the photos from the Hatchet prize award ceremony, I feel, might have captured this elusive group.

    The Mary Beard hatchet review, which didn’t win, is far better. In fact, I think factual hatchets are always going to be superior to fictional ones, because all you have to do in a factual hatchet is point out all the factual errors – fiction ever remains a matter of taste. And yes, the factual ones tend to come out quite amusing too, and dare I say, objective.

  4. A particularly good closing line in that Japan Times review. More a knife between the ribs and then twisted than a hatchet job.

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