John Updike’s The Widows of Eastwick has made the shortlist for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award given by the U.K. magazine the Literary Review. Among books by Americans, Russell Banks’s The Reserve is also finalist for the annual prize, launched to recognize and discourage crude, tasteless and often gratuitous sex scenes in modern novels that otherwise have literary merit.
The judges spared Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife, which some critics have derided for its unintentionally comical sex scenes involving characters resembling George and Laura Bush. But they shortlisted Brida by the Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho, whose The Alchemist has been an American bestseller.
I admire much of the work of John Updike, particularly his poetry and literary criticism, and stand my recent comment that if Updike lived in Greenland, he would have had a Nobel Prize years ago. But – let’s face it – it’s a miracle that he has never won a Bad Sex award, given that this man created the lecherous Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, who made a pass at his daughter-in-law on his deathbed. And I regard Russell Banks as one of America’s most overrated writers, so his nomination doesn’t test my startle reflect, either.
The Literary Review will award the Bad Sex prizes tomorrow night, and the meantime you can read about them at www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/nov/20/bad-sex-award-fiction. A victory by Updike or Banks would be the second award to an American in two years: Norman Mailer won posthumously in 2007 for The Castle in the Forest. Check back late tomorrow afternoon if you’re interested in the results.
You may also want to read the following 2007 posts on One-Minute Book Reviews:
“Ian McEwan Makes Longlist for Bad Sex in Fiction Award as Expected” www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/11/23.
“’Sex in Ian McEwan’s Novel Is Not Bad Enough to Impress the Judges’” www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/11/27/.
“Read All the Passages Shortlisted for the 2007 Bad Sex in Fiction Award Here” www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/11/28/.
And this one from earlier 2008:
“Late Night With Jan Harayda – Is Curtis Sittenfeld Courting a Bad Sex in Fiction Award?” www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/09/24/.
The Literary Review does not post the shortlist on its Web site www.literaryreview.co.uk.
© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.