In Competition No. 2409 you were invited to provide a vitriolic review of a generally acknowledged masterpiece by a critic at the time of its appearance. ‘Monsieur Flaubert is not a writer’ was Le Figaro’s stern verdict on Madame Bovary. The Odessa Courier greeted Anna Karenina with ‘Sentimental rubbish …Show me one page that contains an idea.’ And after seeing A Midsummer Night’s Dream Pepys recorded: ‘The most insipid, ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life.’ I must confess that I too can be numbered among the barbarians: I have never come enjoyably to grips with either Proust or Ulysses, and there’s not much time left for conversion. The winners printed below (all of whom panned works that I greatly admire) get £25 each, and Michael Birt has five pounds extra for his delightfully Pooterish review.
Discerning readers may be aware that our opinion of the lightweight weekly Punch is not of the highest. Hardly surprisingly then that The Diary of a Nobody first appeared in that paper’s tawdry pages. The Grossmith brothers have concocted what purports to be the daily jottings of a City clerk of our times. If it were an honest and accurate depiction, London and our Empire would quickly founder. These scribblers have insulted thousands of dedicated clerical workers, men who are without doubt the very salt of the earth. Charles Pooter, the so-called diarist, is a ninny with a wife as empty-headed as he is and an immoral wastrel of a son. The minor characters, bearing such nonsensical names as Cumming and Gowing, are ripe for the lunatic asylum. This book should be purchased by Nobody.
Life of Pi: Teenage Piscine ‘Pi’ Patel, presumed sole survivor of a shipwreck, adrift in a lifeboat.