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The axeman cometh

Dale Peck casts himself as the saviour of modern fiction, but his firecracker reviews end up merely spitting at a few B-listers. Jonathan Heawood sticks his neck on the block

By Jonathan Heawood   September 2004

In July 2002, the New Republic ran a review of Rick Moody’s novel The Black Veil which began with the (for Moody) unforgettable words: “Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation.” The review, by the novelist Dale Peck, went on to say: “The Black Veil is the worst of Rick Moody’s very bad books.” It was a comprehensive hatchet job, yet – as Peck guilelessly complains – it has been remembered in literary circles largely for its opening sentence.

Peck, who has called himself “one of the best writers around,” attracted widespread abuse for the vehemence of his…

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