CRITICAL HIT AWARDS: April 2012

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.

Eight months into the Critical Hit Awards, we still haven’t offered a mission statement. Here goes.

Books are where our fullest ideas express themselves. And book reviews are the first rejoinder in the broader conversation that books touch off. We’re here to collect and commend the best reviews — the most thought-provoking, satisfying, worthwhile — that aren’t hiding behind a paywall. We like reviews with an argument, a voice, and a point to make beyond the printed page.

Someday we’ll be able to give our champs a cash prize. Until then we’ll tweet and link and applaud as loud as we can.

Thanks to @msnowe, @matttanner, and @tradepaperbacks for nominating book reviews this month!

Best Vertical Integration

The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits

Reviewed by Melissa H. Pierson in Barnes and Noble Review

The startling truth of Heidi Julavits’ novels, says Melissa H. Pierson, is that “women’s inner lives are replete with destructive fury.” As if that’s not enough of an argument to take on, Pierson frames it within the debate over “women’s fiction,” turning her review into a case for female authors occupying the “penthouse” spaces of literary real estate.

Best Exegesis

The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus

Reviewed by Zack Friedman in The New Inquiry

Early reviews of The Flame Alphabet were smart and engrossing, but light on exegesis. Zach Friedman seems to have taken his time absorbing the book. He argues persuasively that the dystopian plot and pseudo-scientific experiments are an allegory for the state of creative writing and Ben Marcus’ place within it.

Best Contradiction

Dogma by Lars Iyer

Reviewed by David Winters in The Rumpus

Reviewing a book that “sets itself up to fail, then fails to do that,” David Winters makes a dizzying number of verbal and logical U-turns. But it may be worth a touch of vertigo to discover how Dogma can “show us what a ‘non-literature’ might look like.”

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.

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— Brian Hurley is over here

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