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Hatchet Jobs: Cutting Through Contemporary Literature

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Hatchet Jobs: Cutting Through Contemporary Literature Cover

 

Review-A-Day

"In his meticulous attention to diction, his savage wit, his exact and rollicking prose, his fierce devotion to stylistic and intellectual precision, and — of course — his disdain for pseudo-intellectual flatulence, Peck is Mencken's heir (although he's got to curb his lazy use of expletives). He writes that this collection marks the end of his hatchet jobs. For the sake of the republic of letters, he'd better change his mind." Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The acclaimed novelist takes a vigorous swipe at contemporary fiction and its progenitors.

"Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation."
— from Hatchet Jobs

According to Dale Peck, contemporary fiction is at an impasse. Its place as entertainer and educator has been usurped by television and the movies while publishing has become a feeder industry to Hollywood. Faced with such diminished status, novelists have reacted in two admirable, if misguided, ways: writing for targeted socio-cultural groups, they produce so-called "identity fiction," which employs a neo-Victorian realism and resembles anthropology more than art; or, they've pursued an ironic and self-reflexive postmodernism that can only comment on the real world with a mocking, impotent jest. Both "solutions" are reactionary and self-defeating, leading to books for the few rather than the many that isolate their readers instead of bringing them together.

Hatchet Jobs methodically eviscerates such writing. Reviewing the work of Jim Crace, Rick Moody, and Colson Whitehead, Dale Peck scrutinizes the publishing climate that fosters what he deems mediocre work and the critical establishment that rewards it. Essays on gay and black women's fiction acknowledge the benefits and limitations of identity fiction, while critiques of Julian Barnes and David Foster Wallace show how twentieth-century literary movements continue to shape fiction for both good and ill.

Rife with textual analysis, historical context, and insights about the power of fiction, Hatchet Jobs hacks away literature's deadwood to discover the vital heart of the contemporary novel.

Review:

"New York novelist Peck has published four previous books (most recently a memoir, What We Lost, in 2003), but none of them has achieved the notoriety of his acid reviews of contemporary fiction writers. Recently Heidi Julavits, co-editor of The Believer, castigated Peck for his 'snark' in a widely read manifesto, and James Atlas wrote a quizzical, marveling profile of Peck for the New York Times Magazine. For the latter feature, and now this book's cover, Peck was photographed provocatively à la Carrie Nation, ax in hand, and indeed there are overtones of both the Puritan and the temperance worker in Peck. The present volume collects the best of these negative reviews. According to Peck's chronology, the trouble with literature began a quarter of a century ago, roughly around the time Thomas Pynchon published Gravity's Rainbow and begat a whole slew of heartless, indulgent 'masterpieces.' The modernist moment over, writing has flirted with postmodern trappings while remaining secretly affianced to the worst excesses of Victorian narrative and description. 'Now, what one hears hailed as an emerging new genre of writing usually turns out to be nothing more than a standard realist text inflected by a preoccupation with something or other.' Peck's criticism of individual writers and marketing trends is wonderfully cogent and invective-filled; dropped into a discussion of Julian Barnes's minimalism, Peck asserts that the novels of Ian McEwan 'smell worse than newspaper wrapped around old fish.' In 'The Moody Blues,' Peck calls Rick Moody 'the worst novelist of his generation,' while How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terry McMillan is a 'panting, gasping, protracted death rattle — four hundred pages of unpunctuated run-on sentences about virtually nothing.' Just when the reader tires of vitriol, Peck turns around and delivers a clearheaded analysis of a novel he likes, in this case Rebecca Brown's Excerpts from a Family Medical Dictionary, bringing to the task those qualities of sensitivity, tact and generosity he has often been accused of lacking. Peck has said that he has written his last slam, this is it, we're not going to get any more 'hatchet jobs,' and that's a pity on the one hand, but great news for the emperor and all his new clothes. Agent, Ricard Abate of ICM. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Few writers have Dale Peck's nerve." The Nation

Review:

"One of the most eloquent voices of his generation." The New York Times

Review:

"[A] passionate, committed commentator who definitely has an axe to grind....[Peck vows] to write no more hatchet jobs. That's a shame: his partisan, nastily persuasive naysaying adds a valuable perspective to our cultural debates." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Smart, self-dramatizing, and pugilistic...[Peck's] essays possess true moxie....[H]owever narrow and hostile his critiques are, they are galvanizing, and serve to sharpen the perceptions and ethos of his fellow, more balanced, critics." Donna Seaman, Booklist

Review:

"For those who like their literary criticism strong, emotional, and salty, this is essential to finish an era. Recommended." Library Journal

Review:

"Shatteringly honest, disturbing, and provocative." David Weingard, San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

Review:

"In his meticulous attention to diction, his savage wit, his exact and rollicking prose, his fierce devotion to stylistic and intellectual precision, and...his disdain for pseudo-intellectual flatulence, Peck is Mencken's heir..." Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic Monthly

Review:

"This isn't criticism. It isn't even performance art. It's thuggee. However entertaining in small doses...as a steady diet it's worse for readers, writers and reviewers than self-abuse." John Leonard, The New York Times Book Review

Synopsis:

The acclaimed novelist takes a vigorous swipe at contemporary fiction and its progenitors.

About the Author

Dale Peck is the author of three novels and the forthcoming memoir, What We Lost: Based on a True Story. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an O. Henry Award.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781565848740
Author:
Peck, Dale
Publisher:
New Press
Location:
New York
Subject:
American - General
Subject:
Books & Reading
Subject:
History and criticism
Subject:
American literature
Subject:
American literature -- 20th century.
Subject:
Literary Criticism : General
Subject:
American
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
June 2004
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
228
Dimensions:
7.5 x 5.25 in 13 lb

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Politics » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

Hatchet Jobs: Cutting Through Contemporary Literature New Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$22.25 Backorder
Product details 228 pages New Press - English 9781565848740 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "New York novelist Peck has published four previous books (most recently a memoir, What We Lost, in 2003), but none of them has achieved the notoriety of his acid reviews of contemporary fiction writers. Recently Heidi Julavits, co-editor of The Believer, castigated Peck for his 'snark' in a widely read manifesto, and James Atlas wrote a quizzical, marveling profile of Peck for the New York Times Magazine. For the latter feature, and now this book's cover, Peck was photographed provocatively à la Carrie Nation, ax in hand, and indeed there are overtones of both the Puritan and the temperance worker in Peck. The present volume collects the best of these negative reviews. According to Peck's chronology, the trouble with literature began a quarter of a century ago, roughly around the time Thomas Pynchon published Gravity's Rainbow and begat a whole slew of heartless, indulgent 'masterpieces.' The modernist moment over, writing has flirted with postmodern trappings while remaining secretly affianced to the worst excesses of Victorian narrative and description. 'Now, what one hears hailed as an emerging new genre of writing usually turns out to be nothing more than a standard realist text inflected by a preoccupation with something or other.' Peck's criticism of individual writers and marketing trends is wonderfully cogent and invective-filled; dropped into a discussion of Julian Barnes's minimalism, Peck asserts that the novels of Ian McEwan 'smell worse than newspaper wrapped around old fish.' In 'The Moody Blues,' Peck calls Rick Moody 'the worst novelist of his generation,' while How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terry McMillan is a 'panting, gasping, protracted death rattle — four hundred pages of unpunctuated run-on sentences about virtually nothing.' Just when the reader tires of vitriol, Peck turns around and delivers a clearheaded analysis of a novel he likes, in this case Rebecca Brown's Excerpts from a Family Medical Dictionary, bringing to the task those qualities of sensitivity, tact and generosity he has often been accused of lacking. Peck has said that he has written his last slam, this is it, we're not going to get any more 'hatchet jobs,' and that's a pity on the one hand, but great news for the emperor and all his new clothes. Agent, Ricard Abate of ICM. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "In his meticulous attention to diction, his savage wit, his exact and rollicking prose, his fierce devotion to stylistic and intellectual precision, and — of course — his disdain for pseudo-intellectual flatulence, Peck is Mencken's heir (although he's got to curb his lazy use of expletives). He writes that this collection marks the end of his hatchet jobs. For the sake of the republic of letters, he'd better change his mind." (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
"Review" by , "Few writers have Dale Peck's nerve."
"Review" by , "One of the most eloquent voices of his generation."
"Review" by , "[A] passionate, committed commentator who definitely has an axe to grind....[Peck vows] to write no more hatchet jobs. That's a shame: his partisan, nastily persuasive naysaying adds a valuable perspective to our cultural debates."
"Review" by , "Smart, self-dramatizing, and pugilistic...[Peck's] essays possess true moxie....[H]owever narrow and hostile his critiques are, they are galvanizing, and serve to sharpen the perceptions and ethos of his fellow, more balanced, critics."
"Review" by , "For those who like their literary criticism strong, emotional, and salty, this is essential to finish an era. Recommended."
"Review" by , "Shatteringly honest, disturbing, and provocative."
"Review" by , "In his meticulous attention to diction, his savage wit, his exact and rollicking prose, his fierce devotion to stylistic and intellectual precision, and...his disdain for pseudo-intellectual flatulence, Peck is Mencken's heir..."
"Review" by , "This isn't criticism. It isn't even performance art. It's thuggee. However entertaining in small doses...as a steady diet it's worse for readers, writers and reviewers than self-abuse."
"Synopsis" by , The acclaimed novelist takes a vigorous swipe at contemporary fiction and its progenitors.
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