Cold Call: Sally Chatterton rings Auberon Waugh
Saturday 28 November 1998
This is exactly the kind of paragraph Auberon Waugh, mastermind of The Bad Sex Awards and editor of the Literary Review, is trying to get rid of: bad, redundant or embarrassing descriptions of sex scenes. Either that or he specialises in the mortification of authors. The piece above was written by Sebastian Faulks, who failed to turn up to this year's prize-giving.
How did the event come about?
The award was an idea I'd had about six years ago. I'd been reviewing novels for about 16 years and had noticed how many were spoilt by chunks of unnecessary sex that the author thought the publisher expected to help sell the novel.
For something that's not particularly prestigious to win, it certainly seems to be a great success with the media darlings.
Actually, it's got out of hand. I think it has become the most important literary event of the year and I would imagine the reason for that is that novelists are starting to drop bad sex now.
Do you think nominated authors take it terribly personally?
Well, I think they get quite nervous. Wretched Faulks didn't even turn up. He's the first one who hasn't. But the runner up, Alan Titchmarsh, did.
Surely you could forgive Titchmarsh his literary failings - he's a gardener after all.
Hm. He's a terribly nice man. Very funny. He made a really good speech and said: "Where I come from in the North, sex is what the toffs put their coal in." His bad sex was charming. Carlos Fuentes's stuff was just bloody boring.
Do you think the way these people write about sex reflects their sex lives?
And their general clumsiness and awkwardness. Yes. Stephen Fry said the great thing about British sex is its awkwardness and embarrassment. It's an English thing.
We're not graceful lovers then?
We've got that reputation, I'm afraid.
Do English men live up to this reputation?
Well, I don't know. Obviously I'm not prepared to talk about myself. And I don't expect you to talk about your impressions.
Given your loathing of bad sex, I presume you've never attempted a titillating paragraph yourself?
Yes I jolly well have, and I'm ashamed of it. At the first award, which Melvyn Bragg won, he produced one of my early novels which had a rather bad sex scene in it.
Was it was very bad sex?
Well, it was certainly bad enough to have been put on the shortlist.
Is it possible to write good sex?
I think if you're going to, it's got to be a proper erotic novel.
Hardcore eroticism rather than just a gratuitous sexual insert?
Exactly. And the essence of sex, it may sound affected to say so, but Jane Austen is quite sexy because there's an erotic tension there.
Have you had a defining erotic moment at all?
In my life? Not prepared to discuss it, if so. I'm sorry. But would you mind mentioning that Hamlet cigars sponsored the Bad Sex Awards?
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