It's not quite the Nobel Prize, but John Updike has a new literary accolade: laureate of bad sex.
Updike, who has a long and graphic history of detailing coupling on the page, won a lifetime achievement award Tuesday from judges of Britain's Bad Sex in Fiction Prize, which celebrates crude, tasteless or ridiculous sexual passages in modern literature.
The judges, editors of Literary Review magazine, said Updike had been shortlisted for the prize four times in its 16-year history. "Good sex or bad sex, he has kept us entertained for many years," they said in a statement.
The magazine said it was attempting to contact Updike to tell him the good news.
The 76-year-old American novelist was a finalist for this year's Bad Sex prize for his description of an explosive oral encounter in his latest book, "The Widows of Eastwick," but lost out to British writer Rachel Johnson.
Johnson won for a passage in her satirical novel "Shire Hell" that describes a woman in the midst of a "mounting, Wagnerian crescendo" wondering whether "the Spodders are, as requested, attending the meeting about slug clearance." Cats and moths also make metaphorical appearances.
"All the passages this year are equally awful, but Rachel Johnson's struck us because of the mixture of cliche and euphemism," said the magazine's deputy editor, Tom Fleming. "There were a couple of really bad animal metaphors in there."
Johnson was due to receive the prize — which comes with a bottle of champagne and a plaster foot — from actor Dominic West, star of "The Wire," at a ceremony in London. Fleming said the foot is intended as "an abstract representation of sex."
Johnson beat a shortlist of writers including Isabel Fonseca, mega-selling Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho and Tony Blair's former spin doctor, Alastair Campbell.
She accepted the prize in good humor, saying, "I always wanted to win a literary award," and noting that previous winners include such literary heavyweights as Sebastian Faulks, Tom Wolfe and the late Norman Mailer.
Mailer posthumously won last year's award for an overly vivid description of Adolf Hitler's conception in his novel "The Castle in the Forest."