John Updike gets lifetime honour for Bad Sex in Fiction

November 26th, 2008 - 8:02 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Nov 26 (IANS) While renowned US author John Updike waits for the Nobel Prize, here comes the literary world’s most notorious honour - the lifetime achievement award for Bad Sex in Fiction. The annual awards, given away by the British journal Literary Review, were announced here Tuesday night.

Many British newspapers were expecting former prime minister Tony Blair’s former spokesman and Labour’s spin doctor Alastair Campbell to take this year’s Bad Sex in Fiction award, but the honour went to Rachel Johnson, who happens to be the sister of Tory mayor Boris Johnson.

The Literary Review’s annual award was presented to Johnson for her novel “Shire Hell” at a ceremony here, and the lifetime achievement award was given to Updike after he realised the “unique achievement” of four consecutive nominations for the award, the Guardian reported on its website.

Johnson was singled out for her novel’s slew of animal metaphors, including comparing her male protagonist’s “light fingers” to “a moth caught inside a lampshade”, and his tongue to “a cat lapping up a dish of cream so as not to miss a single drop”.

Literary Review deputy editor Tom Fleming was also disturbed by the heroine’s “grab, to put him, now angrily slapping against both our bellies, inside”.

“You sort of think it might be a typo, but she is actually referring to his penis as him. It’s a mixture of cliché and euphemism, but it’s also very spirited - A plus for effort,” he was quoted as saying.

“All the entries were equally awful this year, but Rachel Johnson had the worst metaphors, and the worst animal metaphors.”

Here’s a gem from the winner: “I find myself gripping his ears and tugging at the locks curling over them, beside myself, and a strange animal noise escapes from me as the mounting, Wagnerian crescendo overtakes me.”

Johnson said it was an “absolute honour” to win, taking her place alongside former winners including Norman Mailer, Sebastian Faulks and Tom Wolfe.

“I’m not feeling remotely grumpy about it. I know that men with literary reputations to polish might find it insulting,” she was quoted as saying. “But if you’ve had a book published in the year any attention is welcome, even if it’s slightly dubious attention of this sort.”

Updike, who was also nominated this year for his novel “The Widows of Eastwick”, was not present to accept his award.

In “The Widows of Eastwick”, an abundance of sperm greets the performance of oral sex.

“She said nothing then, her lovely mouth otherwise engaged, until he came, all over her face. She had gagged, and moved him outside her lips, rubbing his spurting glans across her cheeks and chin,” Updike writes.

“God, she was antique, but here they were. Her face gleamed with his jism in the spotty light of the motel room, there on the far end of East Beach, within sound of the sea.”

The other contenders in this 16th year of the prize include international best-seller and new-age novelist Paulo Coelho for “Brida”, in which the act of sex - on a public footpath - is described as “the moment when Eve was reabsorbed into Adam’s body and the two halves became Creation”.

“At last, she could no longer control the world around her, her five senses seemed to break free and she wasn’t strong enough to hold on to them. As if struck by a sacred bolt of lightning, she unleashed them, and the world, the seagulls, the taste of salt, the hard earth, the smell of the sea, the clouds, all disappeared, and in their place appeared a vast gold light, which grew and grew until it touched the most distant star in the galaxy.”

Last year’s award was given posthumously to Norman Mailer for his final novel “The Castle in the Forest”, in which a male member is described as being “as soft as a coil of excrement”.

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