Qty:1
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 1 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Gift-wrap available.
Hatchet Jobs: Writings on... has been added to your Cart
Condition: :
Comment: Eligible for Amazon's FREE Super Saver/Prime Shipping, 24/7 Customer Service, and package tracking. 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. Dust jacket in Has dustjacket condition.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Hatchet Jobs: Writings on Contemporary Fiction Hardcover – June 24, 2004


See all 5 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Hardcover
"Please retry"
$23.95
$5.79 $0.01

Best Books of the Year
See the Best Books of 2014
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2014's Best Books of the Year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
$23.95 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Only 1 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 228 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The; First Edition edition (June 24, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565848748
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565848740
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,103,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

Peck has pledged not to write any more vicious reviews of the sort that have recently earned him notoriety. On the evidence of this collection, this is not a cause for regret. The earlier pieces here—assessments of novels by Kurt Vonnegut, Michael Cunningham, and David Foster Wallace—tend to be stronger; in later ones, the attacks feel like a shtick, an impression enhanced by the front-cover photograph, of the author holding an axe. The merits of Peck's reviewing style—passion, wit, and contrarian zeal—are usually outweighed by its defects: endless, baffling plot synopses, a questionable grasp of literary history, and a tendency to use authors' weaker books to damn their entire outputs. Worryingly, when Peck quotes paragraphs of other writers' work to show how bad they are, the prose is often more absorbing than his own.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

Customer Reviews

Such writing backfires on Peck and makes him seem...well, peckish.
Charlus
This is not because he is himself a novelist of only mediocre accomplishments--after all, many great critics had no talent for the writing of fiction itself.
TruthWillOut
There are insulting comments about McEwan, DeLillo, and Franzen, but no real analysis.
pnotley@hotmail.com

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 99 people found the following review helpful By TruthWillOut on July 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I actually share a large number of the opinions that Peck articulates in this book, and I certainly recognize the absolute necessity for this kind of merciless criticism in such a deluded, hype-driven age. The problem is that Peck doesn't have the credibility to deliver it.
This is not because he is himself a novelist of only mediocre accomplishments--after all, many great critics had no talent for the writing of fiction itself. It is because he is guilty of the same kind of dubious back-scratching and addle-brained marketing hyperbole that is responsible for the degenerate state of contemporary publishing.
In his blurb for Jonathan Safran Foer's _Everything Is Illuminated_ he writes breathlessly that it is the best first novel ever written.
Excuse me?
Now, let's give Peck the benefit of the doubt that he actually believes this and has good reason to do so, although we know that he is a family friend of the Foers' and works together with Jonathan Safran Foer's brother, Franklin, on the staff of The New Republic. Yes, let's forget all that. But has Peck ever heard of _The Tin Drum_ I wonder? That was a first novel. So was _Invisible Man_. So was _Catch-22_. So was _Buddenbrooks_. So was _Amerika_ by Kafka. So was _Wuthering Heights_. And _Sense and Sensibility_. This is, of course, to say nothing of _The Tale of Genji_. The list is long and exceedingly distinguished.
Regardless of what one thinks of _Everything Is Illuminated_ (I personally found it a mixture of cleverness, good intentions, and overweening self-indulgence), to say that it is the best first novel ever written is to say something stupid and irresponsible. Such a statement can only be the product of favoritism or abysmal ignorance--neither of which are qualities I value in a literary critic.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
54 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Gulley Jimson on September 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I remember the moment when I decided that Dale Peck didn't deserve my attention. At the end of a review of a Julian Barnes novel, he said that modern British writing was awful, and then spent a single paragraph naming various writers and insulting them. Ian McEwan's novels stink like old fish, etc. He didn't bother explaining to the reader why he thought this was so: he just made a list and said, these people are bad.

And in review after review, this is his favorite way of working. With the exception of his review of Rick Moody's The Black Veil, which is a legitimate dismantling of a bad book, Peck almost never goes into detail as to why a book isn't worth reading. He just throws around insults. There's nothing wrong with writing a vicious review, but back it up: quote examples, explain why the book is badly written, poorly constructed, unrealistic, anything. A responsible critic like James Wood takes the trouble to do this.

But all we get from Peck are strings of denunciations: "All I'm suggesting is that these writers (and their editors) see themselves as the heirs to a bankrupt tradition. A tradition that began with the diarrheic flow of words that is Ulysses; continued on through the incomprehensible ramblings of late Faulkner and the sterile inventions of Nabokov; and then burst into full, foul life in the ridiculous dithering of Barth and Hawkes and Gaddis, and the reductive cardboard constructions of Barthelme, and the word-by-word wasting of a talent as formidable as Pynchon's; and finally broke apart like a cracked sidewalk beneath the weight of the stupid--just plain stupid--tomes of DeLillo.
Read more ›
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By pnotley@hotmail.com on August 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Lionel Trilling once spoke, in his somewhat sententious way, of "the Moral Obligation to be Intelligent." This is worth pondering here, because much criticism gains its power from the coherent moral perspective that it offers. One thinks obviously of Trilling's own Cold War Liberalism, Eliot's Anglicanism, the many varieties of Marxism, Oscar Wilde's aesthetics, or the determined relativism of a Stanley Fish. So what is striking about this collection of mostly angry reviews by Dale Peck is the absence of any coherent philosophical or aesthetic perspective. Note that it is the absence of a coherent morality; not the absence of a moralism that could and frequently did disfigure Trilling, Leavis, Eliot, Chesterton and others. It is not that Peck is amoral or nihilistic. His angry comments on the world in his discussion of Rick Moody, his preference for a nuanced homosexual fiction, his criticisms of Julian Barnes and Philip Roth for misogyny reveal a certain left-liberal attitude. But unlike James Wood, Peck does not use literature as a way of illuminating moral questions. Rather this is a book by a promising young novelist which discusses why he dislikes other promising young novelists, such as Jim Crace, Colson Whitehead, David Foster Wallace, and (of course) Moody, as well as slightly more prominent Barnes, Jamaica Kincaid, and Stanley Crouch. Of the books in this review of the past decade's fiction only two, I think, are in any danger of being mistaken for being the best novels of their time: "Infinite Jest" and "American Pastoral." In other words there are no sacred cows here, and little sign of genius discovered.

Nor does Peck seem to have read widely. His references are largely to English literature, and even more so to American fiction.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Recent Customer Reviews


More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more
Hatchet Jobs: Writings on Contemporary Fiction
This item: Hatchet Jobs: Writings on Contemporary Fiction
Price: $23.95
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com