|Frequency||11 per year|
|Circulation||44,750 (as of 2006[?])[self-published source]|
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. 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 it has run since 1993.
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", 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". The enduring relevance of this rationale has been questioned, based on concerns about censorious public shaming (including online) of authors of serious literary fiction.
Contributors to the magazine have included Diana Athill, Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis, Beryl Bainbridge, John Banville, Julian Barnes, Maile Chapman, 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 published authors of new fiction include William Trevor, Claire Keegan and Nicola Barker.
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.