Bad sex in good books


It is too late to make your own nominations this year, but London’s Literary Review is about to announce this year’s winners for one of the world’s most dreaded competitions:  the 20th annual award for the most embarrassing passage of sexual description in a novel, to take place  on December 4, 2012.

According to Jonathan Beckman, a senior editor, wrote in the Financial Times last year: Auberon Waugh, Literary Review’s former editor, founded the prize with crusading purpose. He was genuinely convinced that publishers were encouraging novelists to include sex scenes solely in order to increase sales. The award’s remit was ‘to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it’. But it is rather hard to convey the redundancy of a passage to an audience that has not read the entire novel, and so the prize has evolved to acknowledge the absurd, the implausible, the overwritten and the unwittingly comical.”

This year’s finalists are:

  • The Yips by Nicola Barker
  • The Adventuress by Nicholas Coleridge
  • Infrared by Nancy Huston
  • Rare Earth by Paul Mason
  • Noughties by Ben Masters
  • The Quiddity of Will Self by Sam Mills
  • The Divine Comedy by Craig Raine
  • Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe  (he was a 2004 winner, too!)

I think they’ll have difficulty topping previous winners.  Rowan Somerville was awarded for this passage in The Shape of Her: “Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.”  Tom Wolfe winning 2004 entry in I Am Charlotte Simmons: “Moan moan moan moan moan went Hoyt as he slithered slithered slithered slithered and caress caress caress caress went the fingers.”

Go over to the #LRBadSex2012 twitter hashtag to check out some of this year’s more promising contenders. How about this one? “She smells of almonds, like a plump Bakewell pudding; and he is the spoon, the whipped cream, the helpless dollop of custard.”

Beckman wrote: “It did not occur to me on joining the magazine that my job would include, every autumn, the corralling of a selection of egregious descriptions of sexual activity.”

It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.  The difficult work is described in the video below.

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4 Responses to “Bad sex in good books”

  1. Pierre de Taille Says:

    As an antidote to bad sex text, I could recommend to read “The House of The Sleeping Beauties”, from the great japanese writer and Nobel Prize laureate Yasunari Kawabata. The story of very old people going to a secret house and paying to spend the night with nude young beauties put to sleep with drugs (intercourse strictly forbidden) could have been done in bad taste and vulgarity. But no; it’s a masterpiece, and a beautiful declaration of love for women and their beauty, done with finesse and nostalgia, as old Eguchi, the main character, remembers his life and the women he loved and cherished.

  2. Cynthia Haven Says:

    Interesting… but what’s in it for the women?

  3. Pierre de Taille Says:

    My guess is, women could be interested in the way an old man who has known several women in his life looks at them: with an appreciative eye, with desire, with subtlety and “délicatesse”. Lying in bed at night beside these beauties, old Eguchi also evoques the women he has loved when he was younger, with nostalgia and fondness. I see this book as an example of the power women have over men, a strong, sensual, erotic and tender power at the same time. But I can understand some people could disagree with that opinion.

  4. Cynthia Haven Says:

    Can’t disagree with something I haven’t read! (However, I do occasionally get irritated by constantly being treated as “other,” and a mysterious “other.” I’m hardly mysterious to myself…)