Welcome back to the Critical Hit Awards for book reviews. This is a round-up, a recommended reading list, and—why not?—a terribly prestigious and coveted prize. Nominate your favorite review of the month by tweeting it at @electriclit with the hashtag #criticalhit or cast your vote in the comments section below.
For the 10th edition of the Critical Hit Awards, we asked designer Matt Tanner a few questions about the official seal he created for us.
What is it about literary criticism that made you think of dinosaurs shooting lasers from their eyes?
I feel like this is a bit of a leading question, where I’m supposed to say something cute about reviewing being an old form that requires precision. The truth, though, is that I was playing off the title of the award and the dinosaur logo of Fiction Advocate. I definitely gave the burst some thought, but the concept wasn’t exactly high-minded.
Are there any other medals for book awards that you particularly admire or dislike—the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, the Newberry, the Caldecott?
I think each of those medals is quite handsome, and in some sense I probably had all of them—or rather the “burst” versions used on book covers—in the back of my mind when I designed the Critical Hits seal. Still, I wouldn’t say I was influenced by any one in particular. Critical Hits seemed to need a more contemporary look. At least, that’s my story for anyone who says the seals looks shabby and hastily put-together. That said, of those four, I’d say the Caldecott is my favorite, whereas the Newberry is a little creepy.
When someone wins a Critical Hit Award, how can they use your design to celebrate it?
The best way to celebrate the award is by getting a tattoo of the seal. Obviously. I’d say a distant second would be incorporating the seal into one’s own letterhead and then writing me a personal note of praise.
Thanks to Mark Molloy and Cassandra Moss for nominating book reviews this month!
Fear of Music by Jonathan Lethem
Reviewed by Jesse Jarnow at The Millions
Obsessively deconstructing a book about obsessively deconstructing an album, Jesse Jarnow wonders quite sincerely whether Jonathan Lethem has, in fact, written a “book,” and then shows conclusively that he has—it’s just unlike any book we’ve seen before.
HHhH by Laurent Binet
Reviewed by James Wood in The New Yorker
The reigning king of close reading has been looking to his legacy for some time now, using his throne at The New Yorker to declare that novelistic realism is the highest form of fiction. Wood’s review of the 2010 Prix Goncourt winner may end up chiseled on his royal tombstone: “There are times when it may be morally productive to employ invented characters and invented facts.”
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Reviewed by Matt McGregor at Bookslut
While chiding some of the novelistic techniques in this work of nonfiction, Matt McGregor offers it as a counterexample to prevailing ideas about global politics, and passionately underscores its anti-corruption message.
Read a good review lately? Nominate it for a Critical Hit Award by tweeting it at @electriclit with the hashtag #criticalhit or cast your vote in the comments section below.
– Brian Hurley is over here.