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Bad Sex Award

20 December 2004

To the amusement of literary scene watchers (but not presumably of the author, who was the first winner in the award's 12 years to decline the invitation to the ceremony) Tom Wolfe was awarded this year's Bad Sex Award for a passage from I Am Charlotte Simmons. The award, which was set up in 1993 by the literary critic Rhoda Koenig and the late Auberon Waugh, is made by the Literary Review each December 'to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.'

Previous winners have included distinguished novelist Sebastian Faulks and gardening writer turned bestselling novelist Alan Titchmarsh. This year there was a strong field and a doughty challenge was mounted by Nobel prize-winner Andre Brink, Will Self with an extraordinary passage involving a cow, previous winner Wendy Perriam and Julian Fellowes.

Wolfe's novel is about a virginal heroine who is shocked by the decadence she encounters at an Ivy League university. Wolfe is said to have spent four years researching the novel in America's temples of academe. The result is a novel which contains this Bad Sex Award-winning passage:

'Hoyt began moving his lips as if he were trying to suck the ice cream off the top of a cone without using his teeth ... Slither slither slither slither went the tongue, but the hand that was what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological* caverns ...'

(*defined by the New Oxford dictionary of English as relating to 'the study of diseases of the ear, nose and throat'.