I admit it. The only reason I bought Dale Peck’s Hatchet Jobs: Writings on Contemporary Fiction was the result of reading his snarky excerpts published in blogs and magazines. Normally I don’t read literary criticism; I find much of it obtuse and inaccessible to a lay reader like myself.
But when Peck writes “Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation”, he begs to be noticed, and he got plenty of it. People—the types who adore car crashes at NASCAR races and fisticuffs at a hockey game—hunted down his reviews, most published in The New Republic, for the literary equivalent of a bloody beating. In the end, like myself, they were disappointed to find that the reviews were pretty ordinary.
From the reviews I have read so far, Peck is not the type to mince words—he is frank, and often brutally so. This frankness, at times, leads him to make snarky comments. Peck doesn’t like the fact that his reviews are reduced to the literary sound bites. Alas, we live in a culture where people make their opinion from five-second sound bites, not 7,500-word essays.