2016 Bad Sex in Fiction Award – the literary world’s most notorious prize – goes to Erri De Luca


Erri De Luca has been named the winner of the 2016 Bad Sex in Fiction Award during a ceremony in London. The renown Italian author, poet and translator won the award for the following passage in his work, The Day Before Happiness:

“My prick was a plank stuck to her stomach. With a swerve of her hips, she turned me over and I was on top of her. She opened her legs, pulled up her dress and, holding my hips over her, pushed my prick against her opening. I was her plaything, which she moved around. Our sexes were ready, poised in expectation, barely touching each other: ballet dancers hovering en pointe.

She pushed on my hips, an order that thrust me in. I entered her. Not only my prick, but the whole of me entered her, into her guts, into her darkness, eyes wide open, seeing nothing. My whole body had gone inside her. I went in with her thrusts and stayed still. While I got used to the quiet and the pulsing of my blood in my ears and nose, she pushed me out a little, then in again. She did it again and again, holding me with force and moving me to the rhythm of the surf. She wiggled her breasts beneath my hands and intensified the pushing. I went in up to my groin and came out almost entirely. My body was her gearstick.”

Described in some quarters as “the writer of the decade”, De Luca was unable to attend and his publisher at Allen Lane accepted the prize on his behalf.

The Italian beat fellow authors Janet Ellis, Tom Connolly, Ethan Canin, Robert Seethaler, and Gayle Forman. All of the nominated extracts for this year’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award can be read here.


Every year since 1993, the Literary Review, which founded the award, has honoured an author who has produced an outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel. The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them. Last year’s winner was Morrissey for the following passage in his book ‘The List of the Lost’:

“At this, Eliza and Ezra rolled together into the one giggling snowball of full-figured copulation, screaming and shouting as they playfully bit and pulled at each other in a dangerous and clamorous rollercoaster coil of sexually violent rotation with Eliza’s breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra’s howling mouth and the pained frenzy of his bulbous salutation extenuating his excitement as it whacked and smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone.”

Past winners have included literary giants including Tm Wolfe and Sebastian Faulks. You can read the winning extracts of all the past award winners in our full compendium of bad sex in fiction.

How Erri De Luca feels about having their name and extract added to the list remains to be seen. Previous winners Wolfe and Morrissey have both expressed vague dismay at winning the prize, with Morrissey describing it as “a repulsive horror” and Wolfe claiming the judges just didn’t understand irony.

Perhaps all the winners should simply have thought a bit more about how not to write about sex in fiction.


“Nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one” – Stunning letters from F. Scott Fitzgerald on the secret of great writing



Good writing advice is hard to find. We’ve compiled various collections of writing tips from some of literature’s greatest minds; but when it comes to motivation and inspiration sometimes the ordered lists and quotes don’t go far enough.

As such, today we’ve brought you some uncompromisingly honest advice on the essence of great writing from F. Scott Fitzgerald – one of the 20th century’s finest authors.

In two letters, one to a close family friend and college sophomore, Frances Turnbull, and one to his fifteen-year old daughter, Scottie, Fitzgerald insists upon the importance of emotional investment in writing, and provides some timeless advice for all aspiring writers.

Happy reading!


“November 9, 1938

Dear Frances:

I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.

This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway’s first stories ‘In Our Time’ went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In ‘This Side of Paradise’ I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.

The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he’ll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming — the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.

That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is ‘nice’ is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the ‘works.’ You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.

In the light of this, it doesn’t seem worth while to analyze why this story isn’t saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than,

Your old friend,

Scott Fitzgerald

P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent — which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.”



“Grove Park Inn
Asheville, N.C.
October 20, 1936

Dearest Scottina:


Don’t be a bit discouraged about your story not being tops. At the same time, I am not going to encourage you about it, because, after all, if you want to get into the big time, you have to have your own fences to jump and learn from experience. Nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one. If you have anything to say, anything you feel nobody has ever said before, you have got to feel it so desperately that you will find some way to say it that nobody has ever found before, so that the thing you have to say and the way of saying it blend as one matter—as indissolubly as if they were conceived together.

Let me preach again for one moment: I mean that what you have felt and thought will by itself invent a new style so that when people talk about style they are always a little astonished at the newness of it, because they think that is only style that they are talking about, when what they are talking about is the attempt to express a new idea with such force that it will have the originality of the thought. It is an awfully lonesome business, and as you know, I never wanted you to go into it, but if you are going into it at all I want you to go into it knowing the sort of things that took me years to learn.


Nothing any good isn’t hard, and you know you have never been brought up soft, or are you quitting on me suddenly? Darling, you know I love you, and I expect you to live up absolutely to what I laid out for you in the beginning.



Literary oddities: the book that makes you solve a puzzle before you can turn each page


The Codex Silenda – brainchild Brady Whitney

As mind-boggling literary challenges go, there are a fair few books for you to choose from. You could navigate your way through the odyssey that is Joyce’s Ulysses, you could put your biggest hipster hat on and work your way through Wallace’s Infinite Jest, or you could try to solo your way through One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez. Alternatively, you could try your hand at this fascinating little oddity we’ve stumbled upon during our general exploration of the creative world: the Codex Silenda.


Created by puzzle designer Brady Whitney, this wooden book has only five pages – but it may well still take you a good deal of time to finish, since you’ll need to solve a complex mechanical puzzle on each one before you can turn to the next.

Made entirely of laser-cut wood, the short story within the Codex Silenda is about an apprentice in Leonardo Da Vinci’s workshop who stumbles across a similar tome, except the version they find is actually a trap created by the artist that you’ll need to help them solve in order to escape.


A Kickstarter campaign to fund the mass-production of the books has already far surpassed its original US$30,000 target. Whitney and co are now creating the codices for their Kickstarter backers, aiming to deliver the first books in May 2017 – after which point they will begin taking orders once again. If you’re keen not to miss out, you can sign up to the email waiting list to hear news on when the next Codices will become available.

As literary oddities go, we hope you’ll agree that this is a good one. We’ll be sure to keep bringing you more, so keep your eyes peeled for more examples of the weird and wonderful!


Hesterglock Press seeks poetry

Revolutionary poetry publishers Hesterglock Press is seeking submissions of collected poetry for publication next year.

The press, run by Sarer Scotthorne and Paul Hawkins, is looking for formally interesting, experiment poetry and ain’t hot on modern lyric poetry, emotive confessionalism or “vague discussions of love, life and poetic craft” (there goes my teenage diary).

However, Hesterglock Press are very to keen to hear from poest who’ve written:

  • Work which interprets ‘revolution’ from a women’s/ feminist perspective
  • Work from black women and other women of colour
  • Work from poets and writers of all genders, sexual orientations and dis/abilities

Hesterglock don’t want to read neoliberal capitalism, homophobia, transphobia, racism or misogyny (and if that’s your jam, why do you enjoy reading this blog – do you just love echidnas and chinese salamanders?)

Find out more about how to submit here.


“Stop poisoning the air, water and topsoil” – Kurt Vonnegut’s letter to the future


Fourteen novels, three short story collections, five plays and five works of non-fiction stand as a towering testament of Kurt Vonnegut’s ability to show us the fantastic in literature, and the extent to which books and writing can make us feel sublime. The man who brought us the terrific Slaughterhouse 5, which experiments in form, structure, as well as time and inter-dimensional travel, is rightly regarded as one of the greatest literary titans of the last 200 years.

And the man who has given us some of the finest, timeless advice on writing and reading has also provided some prescient advice on the way we should live our lives. Indeed, in 1988, he collaborated with TIME Magazine to write a letter to the future population of Humanity, in the year AD 2088.

The purpose of the project was simple: to provide “some words of advice” to those living in 2088”. Vonnegut’s words of advice are, of course, that trademark and distinctive blend of satire and sincerity, and – at a time when the world increasingly seems destined for catastrophe (what with the election of various demagogues-cum-fascists in major countries around the globe, along with the passing of the carbon threshold, mass extinction of flora and fauna, rising global temperatures and increasing inequality) – it seems we need to revisit Vonnegut’s words now more than ever before.

His letter and 7 pieces of advice for our future selves is printed here below:


“Ladies & Gentlemen of A.D. 2088:

It has been suggested that you might welcome words of wisdom from the past, and that several of us in the twentieth century should send you some. Do you know this advice from Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: ‘This above all: to thine own self be true’? Or what about these instructions from St. John the Divine: ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment has come’? The best advice from my own era for you or for just about anybody anytime, I guess, is a prayer first used by alcoholics who hoped to never take a drink again: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.’

Our century hasn’t been as free with words of wisdom as some others, I think, because we were the first to get reliable information about the human situation: how many of us there were, how much food we could raise or gather, how fast we were reproducing, what made us sick, what made us die, how much damage we were doing to the air and water and topsoil on which most life forms depended, how violent and heartless nature can be, and on and on. Who could wax wise with so much bad news pouring in?

For me, the most paralyzing news was that Nature was no conservationist. It needed no help from us in taking the planet apart and putting it back together some different way, not necessarily improving it from the viewpoint of living things. It set fire to forests with lightning bolts. It paved vast tracts of arable land with lava, which could no more support life than big-city parking lots. It had in the past sent glaciers down from the North Pole to grind up major portions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Nor was there any reason to think that it wouldn’t do that again someday. At this very moment it is turning African farms to deserts, and can be expected to heave up tidal waves or shower down white-hot boulders from outer space at any time. It has not only exterminated exquisitely evolved species in a twinkling, but drained oceans and drowned continents as well. If people think Nature is their friend, then they sure don’t need an enemy.

Yes, and as you people a hundred years from now must know full well, and as your grandchildren will know even better: Nature is ruthless when it comes to matching the quantity of life in any given place at any given time to the quantity of nourishment available. So what have you and Nature done about overpopulation? Back here in 1988, we were seeing ourselves as a new sort of glacier, warm-blooded and clever, unstoppable, about to gobble up everything and then make love—and then double in size again.

On second thought, I am not sure I could bear to hear what you and Nature may have done about too many people for too small a food supply.

And here is a crazy idea I would like to try on you: Is it possible that we aimed rockets with hydrogen bomb warheads at each other, all set to go, in order to take our minds off the deeper problem—how cruelly Nature can be expected to treat us, Nature being Nature, in the by-and-by?

Now that we can discuss the mess we are in with some precision, I hope you have stopped choosing abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership. They were useful only so long as nobody had a clue as to what was really going on—during the past seven million years or so. In my time they have been catastrophic as heads of sophisticated institutions with real work to do.

The sort of leaders we need now are not those who promise ultimate victory over Nature through perseverance in living as we do right now, but those with the courage and intelligence to present to the world what appears to be Nature’s stern but reasonable surrender terms:

  1. Reduce and stabilize your population.
  2. Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.
  3. Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.
  4. Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you’re at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.
  5. Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.
  6. Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean, and stupid.
  7. And so on. Or else.

Am I too pessimistic about life a hundred years from now? Maybe I have spent too much time with scientists and not enough time with speechwriters for politicians. For all I know, even bag ladies and bag gentlemen will have their own personal helicopters or rocket belts in A.D. 2088. Nobody will have to leave home to go to work or school, or even stop watching television. Everybody will sit around all day punching the keys of computer terminals connected to everything there is, and sip orange drink through straws like the astronauts.


Kurt Vonnegut”




Oakland literary awards seeking 2017 submissions

If you’ve some great work rattling around in your desk drawer, craving the literary light of day, why not shoot off an application to the Enizagam Journal 2017 Literary Contest.
Enizagam Journal, a project run by Californian high school students, is looking for poetry and short stories up to 4,000 words long.

Matthew Zapruder (Sun Bear, Come On All You Ghosts) will be this year’s poetry judge, and novelist Esmé Weijun Wang (The Border of Paradise) will judge for fiction.
The deadline for submissions is 24 March 2017, and the entry fee is 20 of the finest American dollar-e-doos.

Enizagam Journal is also accepting general submissions in fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and cross/multi-genre, fee-free.

You can read the submission guidelines here.

There’s still a couple of this year’s literary competitions seeking submissions – check out our master list here – 30 Writing competitions for 2016

Monday inspiration: Hunter S. Thompson on finding your purpose


Aspiring creatives know only too well the difference between how we think things will turn out when we are younger and how they actually happen as we grow older. At school, when we are often in the top groups for art, theatre, English, music, it’s easy to get stuck thinking that it will be this way forever, and while we might be aware that most people find becoming professional artists quite difficult, there’s always that lingering suspicion that that sort of difficulty only happens to other people; and people will be celebrating our work continually from now until we retire.

Of course, it nearly never turns out this way. We start to realise we are not guaranteed recognition and acclaim for our creative pursuits simply because we accustomed to receiving it in our youth. And life often starts to get in the way of where we thought we would be: whether that’s through work, which is increasingly stifling as a social construct, through our increasingly digital world that never switches off, or through our changing social or personal lives.

There is a risk, as this starts to happen, of finding ourselves borne along through life via currents not of our choosing. This sensation that we are not quite in control of our destinies – though ultimately still personally responsible for them – can be crippling both mentally and creatively.

We have therefore brought you some timely and worldly advice from legendary writer Hunter S. Thompson. The author of the Rum Diary and Fear and loathing in Las Vegas knows a thing or two about life’s changing paths and how they can affect you. In a letter to his friend Hume Logan, Thompson offers deeply thoughtful ideas, suggesting that the most important thing we can do is choose our lives and our paths for ourselves; because if we don’t our choices will ultimately be made by circumstance.

What perhaps makes the letter all the more profound is that at the time he wrote it he had no idea he was to become one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. This is important because it is an accusation often levelled at great artists who offer their advice to aspiring creatives that the advice they give is all very well – but is often divorced from the realities that young and new artists find themselves living. Yet as Thompson was not successful when he wrote this letter, the beliefs he shares within it do not come tainted with success: they are raw, hypothetical statements of faith. If anything, that makes them all the more real. Read his words of wisdom below.



“April 22, 1958
57 Perry Street
New York City

Dear Hume,

You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal — to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.

I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … ” (Shakespeare)

And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect — between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.

But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?

The answer — and, in a sense, the tragedy of life — is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?

The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all, or not with tangible goals, anyway. It would take reams of paper to develop this subject to fulfillment. God only knows how many books have been written on “the meaning of man” and that sort of thing, and god only knows how many people have pondered the subject. (I use the term “god only knows” purely as an expression.) There’s very little sense in my trying to give it up to you in the proverbial nutshell, because I’m the first to admit my absolute lack of qualifications for reducing the meaning of life to one or two paragraphs.

I’m going to steer clear of the word “existentialism,” but you might keep it in mind as a key of sorts. You might also try something called “Being and Nothingness” by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called “Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre.” These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.) But back to the answer. As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors — but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires — including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.

As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life — the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN — and here is the essence of all I’ve said — you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.

Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”

And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know — is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.

If I don’t call this to a halt, I’m going to find myself writing a book. I hope it’s not as confusing as it looks at first glance. Keep in mind, of course, that this is MY WAY of looking at things. I happen to think that it’s pretty generally applicable, but you may not. Each of us has to create our own credo — this merely happens to be mine.

If any part of it doesn’t seem to make sense, by all means call it to my attention. I’m not trying to send you out “on the road” in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that — no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.

And that’s it for now. Until I hear from you again, I remain,

Your friend,




Sydney’s Taronga zoo sires first echidnas in 29 years; Billy rejoices

Being an echidna isn’t all it’s cracked up to be; we lead solitary lives, lay eggs and we have nightmarish four-headed penises covered in spines.

But reproduction that would make H.R. Giger blush aside, one must concede we are some of the cutest buggers.

For the first time in 29 years, Sydney’s Taronga Zoo has successfully match-made a couple of echidnas who’ve given birth to three adorable echidlings. As a species, we’re notoriously stubborn when it comes to mating in captivity.

Imagine if someone put you behind several inches of plexiglass with a lady you’ve never met before and peers at you from behind their clipboard expecting the marsupial mamba to happen without even a thimble of XXXX Gold to part the waters. I don’t think so.

The creepy observed love-making paid off at least in the arrival of three ‘puggles’, whose sexes and names have yet to be determined. Might I suggest “Billy II” or, failing that, “Nicole Echidman”… Ok, ok, “Eartha Echid”


“Ragnarok”.. now I’m just saying things



Shortlist announced for the 2016 Bad Sex in Fiction Awards


The Literary Review have published their six-author shortlist for their world-famous annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award, which honours those authors who have produced an outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel. The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them. The prize is not intended to cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature.

While the 2015 award was won by Morrissey – who joined a list of winners stretching back to 1993 – this year’s shortlist offers some stiff (word usage intended) competition for the prize.

Ian McEwan received an honorary mention, but just missed out on making the final shortlist. Former Blue Peter presenter, Janet Ellis, joins authors Tom Connolly, Ethan Canin, Robert Seethaler, Gayle Forman, and Erri De Luca on this year’s shortlist.

This year’s winner promises to be a tough one to call, with each of the authors showcasing exactly what not to do when it comes to writing about sex.

A spokesperson for the judges said that some of the nominated extracts “fall into the classic bad sex mistake of overwriting, with mixed metaphors, uncomfortable similes, or becoming so hyperbolic they strain credulity”.

Unintentional Madonna references put American novelist Gayle Forman on the judge’s list, while European prize for literature winner Erri de Luca makes the grade for a startlingly confusing sex scene, in which de Luca writes “my whole body had gone inside her.” One of the judges found the passage so confusing they said: “the detail of what’s happening gets so out of control it’s very hard to make head or tail of it.”

Tom Connolly, meanwhile, finds his name on the list thanks to a description of perfunctory airport sex: “He watched her passport rise gradually out of the back pocket of her jeans in time with the rhythmic bobbing of her buttocks as she sucked him. He arched over her back and took hold of the passport before it landed on the pimpled floor. Despite the immediate circumstances, human nature obliged him to take a look at her passport photo.”

The judges noted that, during Connolly’s sex scenes, it becomes apparent that the author’s grasp of human anatomy: “The  judges were struck by the incredible length of the male character’s arms. Sometimes anatomy goes a little bit wrong for a writer who’s trying to do too many things at once,” he said.

Robert Seethaler is on the list for a sex scene that “takes itself too seriously”, according to a Literary Review spokesperson. Meanwhile, Ethan Canin is in the running for the dubious honour of the prize for overwriting and a heavy use of similes. In his book, Canin writes: “During sex she would be quiet, moving suddenly on top of him like a lion over its prey … The act itself was fervent. Like a brisk tennis game or a summer track meet, something performed in daylight between competitors.”

Former Blue Peter presenter Ellis completes the shortlist after the panel of five judges singled her book out for a surprisingly agricultural passage:

 “‘Anne,’ he says, stopping and looking down at me. I am pinned like wet washing with his peg. ‘Till now, I thought the sweetest sound I could ever hear was cows chewing grass. But this is better.’ He sways and we listen to the soft suck at the exact place we meet. Then I move and put all thoughts of livestock out of his head.”

You can read a full list of extracts from all the shortlisted writers and novels right here on Nothing in the Rulebook.

This year’s winner will be announced on the 30 November. Keep a keen eye for news on who will be added to our fully comprehensive list of all the previous Bad Sex in Fiction award winners.

Bad Sex in Fiction: extracts from the 2016 shortlist

It’s that time of year again – the literary period that brings one of the greatest gifts of all to so many people around the world. That’s right, it’s time for the annual Bad Sex in Fiction award, the shortlist of which has just been announced.

If you’re a fan of spasming muscles, shooting blobs of “lo-cal genetics”, sighs, moans, groans and general limb-flying raunchy madness, then you’re in for a treat.

While Ian McEwan almost made it onto this year’s shortlist, all eyes are on the judges at The Literary Review, which founded the award, to see who will be crowned this year’s winner – and whose name will be added to our long-running connoisseur’s compendium.

We’ve listed the full set of shortlisted authors below, along with their literary extracts. Enjoy!


Ethan Canin – A Doubter’s Almanac

“The act itself was fervent. Like a brisk tennis game or a summer track meet, something performed in daylight between competitors. The cheap mattress bounced. She liked to do it more than once, and he was usually able to comply. Bourbon was his gasoline. Between sessions, he poured it at the counter while she lay panting on the sheets. Sweat burnished her body. The lean neck. The surprisingly full breasts. He would down another glass and return.”

Robert Seethaler – The Tobacconist

“He closed his eyes and heard himself make a gurgling sound. And as his trousers slipped down his legs all the burdens of his life to date seemed to fall away from him; he tipped back his head and faced up into the darkness beneath the ceiling, and for one blessed moment he felt as if he could understand the things of this world in all their immeasurable beauty. How strange they are, he thought, life and all of these things. Then he felt Anezka slide down before him to the floor, felt her hands grab his naked buttocks and draw him to her. “Come, sonny boy!” he heard her whisper, and with a smile he let go.”

Tom Connolly – Men Like Air

“The walkway to the terminal was all carpet, no oxygen. Dilly bundled Finn into the first restroom on offer, locked the cubicle door and pulled at his leather belt. “You’re beautiful,” she told him, going down on to her haunches and unzipping him. He watched her passport rise gradually out of the back pocket of her jeans in time with the rhythmic bobbing of her buttocks as she sucked him. He arched over her back and took hold of the passport before it landed on the pimpled floor. Despite the immediate circumstances, human nature obliged him to take a look at her passport photo.”

Janet Ellis – The Butcher’s Hook

“When his hand goes to my breasts, my feet are envious. I slide my hands down his back, all along his spine, rutted with bone like mud ridges in a dry field, to the audacious swell below. His finger is inside me, his thumb circling, and I spill like grain from a bucket. He is panting, still running his race. I laugh at the incongruous size of him, sticking to his stomach and escaping from the springing hair below.”

Gayle Forman – Leave Me

“Once they were in that room, Jason had slammed the door and devoured her with his mouth, his hands, which were everywhere. As if he were ravenous.

And she remembered standing in front of him, her dress a puddle on the floor, and how she’d started to shake, her knees knocking together, like she was a virgin, like this was the first time. Because had she allowed herself to hope, this was what she would’ve hoped for. And now here it was. And that was terrifying.

Jason had taken her hand and placed it over his bare chest, to his heart, which was pounding wildly, in tandem with hers. She’d thought he was just excited, turned on.

It had not occurred to her that he might be terrified, too.”

Erri De Luca – The Day Before Happiness

“She pushed on my hips, an order that thrust me in. I entered her. Not only my prick, but the whole of me entered her, into her guts, into her darkness, eyes wide open, seeing nothing. My whole body had gone inside her. I went in with her thrusts and stayed still. While I got used to the quiet and the pulsing of my blood in my ears and nose, she pushed me out a little, then in again. She did it again and again, holding me with force and moving me to the rhythm of the surf. She wiggled her breasts beneath my hands and intensified the pushing. I went in up to my groin and came out almost entirely. My body was her gearstick.”



So, what do you think? Which of these writers deserves to join Morrissey and co on the full list of winners since 1993?