Literary Review

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Literary Review
EditorNancy Sladek
Frequency11 per year
Circulation44,750 (as of 2006[?])[1][self-published source]
Founded1979; 45 years ago (1979)
CountryUnited Kingdom
Based inLondon

Literary Review is a British literary magazine founded in 1979 by Anne Smith, then head of the Department of English at the University of Edinburgh. Its offices are on Lexington Street in Soho.[1] The magazine was edited for fourteen years by veteran journalist Auberon Waugh. The current editor is Nancy Sladek.

The magazine reviews a wide range of published books, including fiction, history, politics, biography and travel, and additionally prints new fiction. It is also known for the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award that it has run since 1993.

Bad Sex in Fiction Award[edit]

Each year since 1993, Literary Review has presented the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award to the author it deems to have produced the worst description of a sex scene in a novel. The award is symbolically presented in the form of what has been described as a "semi-abstract trophy representing sex in the 1950s",[2] depicting a naked woman draped over an open book. The award was established by Rhoda Koenig, a literary critic, and Auberon Waugh, then the magazine's editor.

The aim of the award is "to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it".[2] The enduring relevance of this rationale has been questioned, based on concerns about censorious public shaming (including online) of authors of serious literary fiction.[3]



Contributors to the magazine have included Diana Athill, Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis, Beryl Bainbridge, John Banville, Julian Barnes, Maile Chapman, Boris Dralyuk, Hilary Mantel, John Mortimer, Malcolm Bradbury, A. S. Byatt, Paul Johnson, David Starkey, John Gray, Robert Harris, Nick Hornby, Richard Ingrams, Joseph O'Neill, Lynn Barber, Derek Mahon, Oleg Gordievsky, John Sutherland and D. J. Taylor. Recently[when?] published authors of new fiction include William Trevor, Claire Keegan and Nicola Barker.


  1. ^ a b "Literary Review media kit (PDF)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 October 2008.
  2. ^ a b c "Third time 'lucky' for bad sex winner". BBC News. 3 December 2005. Retrieved 27 November 2007.
  3. ^ Gough, Julian (28 November 2019). "I was nominated for the Bad sex award. Don't laugh". The Guardian. It is possible that the Bad sex award had a point when it was established back in 1993. After the collapse of Britain's obscenity laws, and before the internet, authors were occasionally encouraged to add some gratuitous sex in order to sell books, giving us the bonkbuster. But that era is long gone... I find the Bad sex award, at this point in its history, in bad faith. Its basic premise – that authors are adding unnecessary and lazy sex to increase sales – is not just wrong, it's the reverse of the truth. The award very deliberately avoids shortlisting actual pornography or erotica and instead targets authors who are trying to be honest about desire and sex, however distasteful the results may be. It deliberately and successfully encourages the worst, and dumbest, misreading of fiction; the conflating of authors with their characters in order to publicly shame them.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Rhind-Tutt, Louise (27 November 2017). "Celebrating 25 years of the worst sex scenes in literary history". i.
  5. ^ "Sean Thomas wins the Bad Sex in Fiction Award". PR Newswire (Press release). Retrieved 27 November 2007.
  6. ^ "Bad sex book prize for journalist". BBC News. 1 December 2005. Retrieved 27 November 2007.
  7. ^ "First-time author wins Bad Sex in Fiction honor". Associated Press. 29 November 2006. Retrieved 27 November 2007.
  8. ^ "Late Mailer wins 'bad sex' award". BBC News. 27 November 2007. Retrieved 27 November 2007.
  9. ^ Flood, Alison (25 November 2008). "Rachel Johnson 'honoured' to win Bad Sex award". The Guardian.
  10. ^ "Author Somerville wins 'bad sex' literary prize". BBC News. 30 November 2010. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
  11. ^ "Jonathan Beckman - Bad Sex Report 2011". Literary Review. December 2011.
  12. ^ Maev Kennedy (4 December 2012). "Bad sex award goes to Nancy Huston's 'babies and bedazzlements'". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 December 2012.
  13. ^ "Jonathan Beckman - Twitching Fairy Penguin". Literary Review. December 2014.
  14. ^ "Morrissey wins Bad Sex in Fiction prize". BBC News. 1 December 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  15. ^ "Literary Review - For People Who Devour Books". Literary Review. 17 August 2023.
  16. ^ Chandler, Mark (8 December 2020). "Bad Sex award cancelled to spare people from more bad things". The Bookseller. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  17. ^ Croft, Ethan (9 December 2022). "Bad Sex Award cancelled, but John Le Carré's still a winner". Evening Standard. Retrieved 12 July 2023.

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