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Critic Snags Award For Reviews Sizzling With Anger

Washington Post book critic Ron Charles was surprised and gratified to find himself on the shortlist of a literary website's award for "Hatchet Job of the Year." The award goes to the harshest, funniest, most trenchant book review of 2012.

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Transcript

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Open the book review section of your newspaper, if you can still find it, and flip through the pages. Maybe you're looking for your next read. But what's more interesting is that nasty little gem of a bad review; a piece of writing so scathing, so contemptuous it sizzles with anger.

RON CHARLES: And this was a lazy, whiny snobby novel.

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MARTIN: That's Washington Post book critic Ron Charles. His review of Martin Amis' 2012 book, "Lionel Asbo," is on the shortlist for the Hatchet Job of the Year Award. This is an award launched by the literary website The Omnivore. And it's given to the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review of the past 12 months.

CHARLES: I was very surprised to be nominated for this, yes. This is an auspicious honor of being the meanest critic in the world.

MARTIN: It is not an honor he was expecting.

CHARLES: I'm the Will Rogers of book critics. You know, I'm out to find books that I like. You know, to recommend to readers because I know that's what want, is that they want to know what they should read next. So, when you get into a book - and usually you discover it, you know, too late to stop. And you get to 60, 70, 100 pages into and you realize, oh, my gosh, this is just dreadful.

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MARTIN: And beyond the practical, there's another virtue to the well-executed pan: the critic gets to flex his comedic muscle.

CHARLES: And Michael Derdis once said when he'd reviewed a book that he not only felt sorry for the paper, but for the ink. I mean lines like that are just funny. You know, they stick in your mind. And writers that can pull it off, you know are very entertaining critics to read.

MARTIN: Despite the pleasures of a caustic critic, Ron Charles says its authors who do the real work.

CHARLES: These people are artists, so they have spent years working on these books. They are important. Book critics are just leeches on them. I don't get confused about who's more important or who's more worthy.

MARTIN: Still, watch out for angry writers, say, Woody Allen, out for revenge.

WOODY ALLEN: I once almost ran over a book critic with my car, but it swerved at the last second.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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