Let's hear it for New York's literary bible
If you happen to be in Manhattan next Tuesday evening, you might like to drop into the Town Hall on West 43rd Street where Irish novelist John Banville will be among a group of distinguished writers celebrating the 50th anniversary of the New York Review of Books.
Founded by Robert B Silvers and Barbara Epstein during a New York newspaper strike in February 1963, the NYRB quickly established a formidable reputation for its authoritative book reviews and for its superbly written essays on politics and the arts, and is now recognised as the pre-eminent literary magazine in the western world.
I've long subscribed to it, and indeed one of the more pleasing sounds of a weekday morning is my fortnightly copy being dropped through the letter box.
Barbara Epstein died in 2006 but Robert Silvers will be on the platform alongside Banville and such other regular contributors as Mary Beard, Michael Chabon and Joan Didion.
Zoe Heller's demolition of Salman Rushdie's memoir, Joseph Anton, which appeared in a recent edition of the NYRB, has been shortlisted for the Hatchet Job of the Year award, the winner of which will be announced in London on February 12.
Actually, the review wasn't that savage – certainly not as scathing as Suzanne Moore's review in the Guardian of Naomi Wolf's Vagina: A New Biography, in which Moore declared that "much of Wolf's work is utter drivel".
That's shortlisted, too, along with Richard Evans's New Statesman attack on Hitler: A Short Biography by AN Wilson – a "travesty" written with "repellent arrogance" by a man who "thinks that, because he's a celebrated novelist, he can write a book about Hitler that people should read".
In an Amazon culture that encourages anonymous rave reviews of unworthy books, it's refreshing to be reminded that some critics don't hold back.