- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

LONDON (AP) - A moan about Morrissey and a bitter verdict on Donna Tartt are contenders for Britain’s Hatchet Job award, honoring the year’s most cutting book reviews.

Eight finalists announced Tuesday include A.A. Gill’s verdict on “Autobiography” by former Smiths lead singer Morrissey - “utterly devoid of insight, warmth, wisdom or likability” - and Peter Kemp’s dismissal of Tartt’s best-selling novel “The Goldfinch”: “a turkey.”

The Hatchet Job award was established in 2011 by literary website The Omnivore to honor “the angriest, funniest, most trenchant” review published in a newspaper or magazine.

It has received criticism for rewarding mean-spiritedness, but organizers say the tongue-in-cheek contest has a serious purpose: to encourage reviewers to be fearless.

Omnivore co-editor Anna Baddeley said the prize also “celebrates the book pages and gets people reading reviews.”

Prominent books on the savage shortlist include Eleanor Catton’s Booker Prize-wining “The Luminaries” - reviewer David Sexton was unimpressed - and Paul Theroux’s African travelogue “The Last Train to Zona Verde,” which struck Hedley Twidle as “offensive and plain bizarre.”

The other finalists include Lucy Ellmann’s appalled review of Douglas Coupland’s “Worst. Person. Ever”; Rachel Cook’s scathing verdict on “Strictly Ann,” the autobiography of Ann Widdecombe; and Craig Brown’s acerbic assessment of “Distant Intimacy” by Joseph Epstein and Frederic Raphael.

Raphael also is nominated as a reviewer, for his smack-down of John le Carre’s “A Delicate Truth.”

The winner, to be announced Feb. 11, will receive a year’s supply of potted shrimp from the award’s sponsor, a fishmonger.

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Online: www.hatchetjoboftheyear.com

Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless