Entertainment & Arts

Morrissey critique wins Hatchet Job award

Morrisey Image copyright PA
Image caption Morrissey's autobiography was published in October by Penguin Classics

A scathing review of singer Morrissey's recent autobiography has won an award presented annually to "the writer of the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review" of the past 12 months.

AA Gill's Sunday Times review was named Hatchet Job of the Year for saying the memoir was "utterly devoid of insight, warmth, wisdom or likeability".

The book, he said, exhibited "vanity, self-pity and logorrhoeic dullness".

Eight reviews in all were shortlisted for this year's award.

They included David Sexton's Evening Standard review of Eleanor Catton's Booker-winning The Luminaries, Rachel Cooke's verdict on Anne Widdecombe's autobiography in The Observer and Frederic Raphael's slamming of John Le Carre's A Delicate Truth in the Times Literary Supplement.

Morrissey's autobiography was published, at his insistence, under the Penguin Classics imprint - usually reserved for the likes of Moliere and Machiavelli.

Gill robustly challenged the move in his 1,200-word critique, calling it a "pooterishly embarrassing piece of intellectual social climbing".

Hijacking the Penguin Classics brand "doesn't diminish Aristotle or Homer or Tolstoy," he added, "it just roundly mocks Morrissey, and this is a humiliation constructed by the self-regard of its victim".

He continued: "Morrissey is plainly the most ornery, cantankerous, entitled, whingeing, self-martyred human being who ever drew breath. And those are just his good qualities."

First presented in 2012 by the Omnivore website, the Hatchet prize has previously been awarded to Adam Mars-Jones for his Observer review of Michael Cunningham's By Nightfall and Camilla Long's take on Rachel Cusk's "divorce memoir" Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation in the Sunday Times.

The 2014 prize-giving at the Coach and Horses pub in London's Soho saw Gill presented with both his Golden Hatchet prize and a year's supply of potted shrimp.

This year's winner was decided by a judging panel that comprised former Independent editor Rosie Boycott, the Standard's art critic Brian Sewell and the author and academic John Sutherland.

"The winner emerged without argument," Sewell told The Guardian, whose critic Lucy Ellmann had been shortlisted for her review of Douglas Coupland's novel Worst. Person. Ever.

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