Rachel Johnson Wins Bad Sex in Fiction Award, Updike Duly Recognized

by Staff

At a ceremony in London on Tuesday night, Rachel Johnson, the sister of the city's mayor, Boris Johnson, was awarded the sixteenth annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award for passages in her novel Shire Hell (Penguin, 2008). John Updike received a lifetime achievement award after being nominated for the prize four consecutive times; he was in the running for this year's award for passages in The Widows of Eastwick (Knopf, 2008). 

The award was established in 1993 by the London magazine the Literary Review "to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it." The judges singled out a particularly cringeworthy passage in Johnson's novel that includes the phrase, "and a strange animal noise escapes me." Johnson said it was an "absolute honor" to win.

The finalists for this year's award were The Gate of Air by James Buchan, All in the Mind by Alastair Campbell, To Love, Honour and Betray by Kathy Lette, Sashenka by Simon Montefiore, Attachment by Isabel Fonseca, and The Reserve by Russell Banks.

Last year the Bad Sex in Fiction Award was given posthumously to Norman Mailer, who died last November, for his novel The Castle in the Forest (Random House, 2007).