Literary titan Haruki Murakami among all-male shortlist for 2018 Bad Sex in Fiction award

Nominations are in as the Literary Review prepares to announce the winner of the notorious ‘Bad Sex in Fiction’ prize, which aims to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction.

Big-name authors James Frey and Haruki Murakami have made this year’s all male shortlist, which also includes Irish novelist Julian Gough for a passage in his novel Connect, spoof autobiography Scoundrels by “Major Victor Cornwall and Major Arthur St John Trevelyan”, Kismet by Luke Tredget, Grace’s Day by William Wall and The Paper Lovers by Gerard Woodward.

Murakami is usually found among the contenders for the Nobel prize in Literature and other prestigious literary accolades; yet in many ways, perhaps his nomination for the Bad Sex in Fiction award is his finest achievement.

Murakami was nominated for an extract of his novel Killing Commendatore, which reads:

“My ejaculation was violent, and repeated. Again and again, semen poured from me, overflowing her vagina, turning the sheets sticky. There was nothing I could do to make it stop. If it continued, I worried, I would be completely emptied out. Yuzu slept deeply through it all without making a sound, her breathing even. Her sex, though, had contracted around mine, and would not let go. As if it had an unshakeable will of its own and was determined to wring every last drop from my body.”

Read extracts of all the passages that earned this year’s nominated authors a place on the Bad Sex Award shortlist here

The prize is not intended to cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature. The winner of this year’s award will join a long line of illustrious authors – or not so illustrious, in the case of 2015’s winner, Morrissey – to have picked up the booby prize (pun intended, of course), which stretches back to 1993.

American author Christopher Bollen scooped the 2017 prize for his novel The Destroyers

You can read extracts from all the Bad Sex in Fiction Award-winning books in our connoisseur’s compendium.

For more information about the award, visit the Literary Review website.

Nothing in the Rulebook will continue to monitor all updates relating to the Bad Sex in Fiction Awards with (possibly too much) interest.

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Bad Sex in Fiction: extracts from the 2018 shortlist

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What’s that sound you hear, drifting through the air? Could it be the sound of spasming muscles, grunts and groans, salacious sighs? You’re almost there – that’s right; its one of the greatest times of the literary year – the annual Bad Sex in Fiction award, which has just released its shortlist of nominated entries.

If you’re a fan of the often surreal world of bad sex in fiction – a landscape of low-cal genetics, bulbous salutations and general limb-flying raunchy madness, then you’re in for a treat.

All eyes are now 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!

“Overwhelming exploding white god” – Katerina by James Frey

We both move toward each other kissing deeply slowly heavily, lips and tongues, her hands are immediately in my pants, I lift her off the ground set her on the sink tear off her thong. She says now I ask her if she has a condom she says now, Jay, now. I step between her legs.

Move inside her.

She’s tight and wet, leans back against the mirror.

Forward.

Deeper inside her.

Forward.

Tight and wet.

She moans pulls my face to hers kisses me. I start moving inside her, slow hard and deep, her hands gripping the sides of the sink, my hands on her shoulders, we’re looking into each other’s eyes pale green and light brown like cocoa. Do you like my pussy, Jay?

[…]

I’m hard and deep inside her fucking her on the bathroom sink her tight little black dress still on her thong on the floor my pants at my knees our eyes locked, our hearts and souls and bodies locked.

Cum inside me.

Cum inside me.

Cum inside me.

Blinding breathless shaking overwhelming exploding white God I cum inside her my cock throbbing we’re both moaning eyes hearts souls bodies one.

One.

White.

God.

Cum.

Cum.

Cum.

I close my eyes let out my breath.

Cum.

“Nipples as hard as cherry pits” – Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Quietly, so as not to wake Yuzu, I descended from the ceiling to stand at the foot of the bed. I was sexually aroused, powerfully so. I hadn’t made love to her for ages. Bit by bit, I peeled back the quilt covering her. She was fast asleep (had she taken a sleeping pill before retiring?) and showed no signs of waking up, even when I removed the quilt. She never even twitched. This made me more daring. Taking my time, I slipped off her pajama bottoms, then her panties. Her pajamas were a pale blue, her tiny cotton panties pure white. Still she did not wake. There was no resistance, no sound.

I gently parted her legs and caressed her vagina with my finger. It was warm and wet, and opened to my touch. As if it had been waiting for me. I couldn’t stand it any longer – I slipped my erect penis inside. Or, from another angle, that part of her actively swallowed my penis, immersing it in what felt like warm butter. Yuzu did not open her eyes, but she sighed and let out a small moan. As if she had been impatient for this to happen. Her nipples were as hard as cherry pits when I touched them.

[…]

My ejaculation was violent, and repeated. Again and again, semen poured from me, overflowing her vagina, turning the sheets sticky. There was nothing I could do to make it stop. If it continued, I worried, I would be completely emptied out. Yuzu slept deeply through it all without making a sound, her breathing even. Her sex, though, had contracted around mine, and would not let go. As if it had an unshakeable will of its own and was determined to wring every last drop from my body.

“Penile penitentiary” – Scoundrels: The Hunt for Hansclapp by Major Victor Cornwall and Major Arthur St John Trevelyan

There was no other woman like Fang. The urge was too great to withstand any longer. So we yielded. Two atoms smashing together in a thermonuclear embrace. As she unshackled my angry, straining shaft, desperate to be free from its penile penitentiary, it felt as if the very fabric of the universe was being torn asunder.

[…]

“Empty my tanks,” I’d begged breathlessly, as once more she began drawing me deep inside her pleasure cave. Her vaginal ratchet moved in concertina-like waves, slowly chugging my organ as a boa constrictor swallows its prey. Soon I was locked in, balls deep, ready to be ground down by the enamelled pepper mill within her.

‘The stiffening shaft” – Connect by Julian Gough

They remove each other’s remaining clothes, solemnly, with tremendous attention to each other’s responses, like a ritual of incredible power and importance. When his jeans get caught, bunched, on an ankle, he laughs with nervous tension, mixed with pleasure, that they are really doing this. She smiles back.

They will protect each other.

He closes his eyes and they roll over sideways on the bed, and they kiss for a long, long time.

And then Colt moves lower, and explores Sasha with his fingers, with his lips and tongue. He moves his face over the hill of a breast; descends, kissing, across the warm curved dune of her belly, which tightens, trembles at each kiss, little earthquakes.

Down, now, between her legs, into that complicated valley, everything vivid, astonishing, new.

Yes, it’s like orbiting another planet, landing, exploring…

Wow, wow, wow… no, it’s like a rosebud…

She helps him explore.

Oh man, it opens like a rose…

After a long, long time, she pulls him back up, and he wipes his mouth on the sheet, and they kiss again.

She licks her hand, and reaches down. His penis leaps at her touch as she wets its head, and slides her warm, wet palm up and down the stiffening shaft.

[…]

As she helps guide him inside her, he feels both the specific local sensation of his penis sliding inside her vagina, and also the overwhelming sensation throughout his whole body that some barrier surrounding him, isolating him all his life, has finally been removed and he is, for the first time, coming into contact with everything outside himself.

He holds her tight, and Sasha holds him, and he can no longer feel where he ends, and she begins.

“Smeared with wet paint” – Kismet by Luke Tredget

She shuffles her head closer to his cock, close enough to smell her own residue, and then takes it in her mouth, with the vague idea of cleaning it. Geoff mirrors this gesture by burying his head between her legs, and gradually she can feel his cock pumping up with blood, one pulse at a time, until it is long and hard and filling her wide-open mouth. They stay in this position for a long time, Anna sucking and slurping with the same lazy persistence you’d use on a gobstopper or a stick of rock. Eventually she loses her sense of the context altogether – of what she is doing or who she is with or where they are – and becomes an empty vessel for what feels like disembodied consciousness. She looks at the window and wonders how the glass feels encased within its wooden frame, what the shaggy clouds feel like being blown across the sky, what the walls felt like being splattered and smeared with wet paint.

[…]

Amazingly, having floated as separate as planets for twenty or thirty minutes, they come at exactly the same time.

“Small and sticky and amusing” – Grace’s Day by William Wall

He’s almost weightless. When he enters me it hurts and my pain belongs to the subterranean world, primitive as the clay. His body is slacker than I expected, a small paunch begins at his waist and settles in a downward parabola to his groin. His pubic hair is red. His erect penis is a surprise although I had imagined what they would feel like, read about them, seen them represented on toilet walls and magazines. I didn’t see it before he entered me, but afterwards it is small and sticky and amusing. I want to touch it but I don’t dare. I don’t know the etiquette. He is twenty or more years older than me. This is sex.

[…]

I lie there with my legs spread, my shirt pulled down awkwardly. The old bag of tools is beside my head. I can almost sense the numinous reality of the ammonite. I’m sore but not as much as I had imagined. I’ve been learning things from magazines, though they haven’t prepared me for the fullness, the experience of being ridden, of his final explosive stop. The terror is pleasure. There isn’t enough of it. I want it again.

“Miraculously he found himself rigid again” – The Paper Lovers by Gerard Woodward

He was aware that she was making a mewling sound as he put his lips to her tightened nipple and sucked. Her mouth was at his ear, her tongue travelling along its grooves, voice filling it. His mouth tugged at her, extended her, she snapped back, there was a taste of something on his tongue. In his mind he pictured her neck, her long neck, her swan’s neck, her Alice in Wonderland neck coiling like a serpent, like a serpent, coiling down on him. She had found a way through his clothing and her fingers had lightly touched his cock, then slowly began to take a firmer hold. He wanted to cry like a baby. He felt helpless, as though his body had come undone and she was fastening it. He felt as though he was bleeding somewhere. Then he felt powerful, gigantic. He would have kicked a door down.

[…]

Vera rose above him, naked now, but for the necklace, she straddled him, though he was soft and helpless, indeed he was in a certain amount of mild pain. Her breasts moved in front of his face and he felt the befuddled sense of being stared at by them, they were still shiny from where he’d sucked. She knocked them playfully against his nose, one after the other. Beneath them her wetness met his own wetness, and they stirred against each other, she pestled him slowly, until miraculously he found himself rigid again, as though he had risen out of his own pain, fresh and ready.

“Like water stains in a bathtub” – 2017 Bad Sex in Fiction prize goes to Christopher Bollen

 

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US author Christopher Bollen. Photograph: Getty Images

US author Christopher Bollen has been named the winner of the 2017 Bad Sex in Fiction Award for his novel The Destroyers.

The judges voted him the winner after reading a scene depicting the book’s protagonist, Ian, with his ex-girlfriend on the island of Patmos. The following extract drew particular focus from this year’s judges:

 “Do me a favor,” she says as she turns. She covers her breasts with her swimsuit. The rest of her remains so delectably exposed. The skin along her arms and shoulders are different shades of tan like water stains in a bathtub. Her face and vagina are competing for my attention, so I glance down at the billiard rack of my penis and testicles. “Let’s not tell Charlie and Sonny about us. Let’s leave them out of it. You know how this kind of thing can become a telenovela for everyone else.”

Bollen – editor-at-large of Interview magazine – did not attend the ceremony; not an uncommon move by winners of the award, with some previous winners describing receiving the dubious honour as “a repulsive horror”.

The Destroyers is his third novel and the judges said he “prevailed against strong competition” – with extracts from the books of those shortlisted available to read here.

The award, organised by the Literary Review, was presented by Carry On star Fenella Fielding at London’s Naval and Military Club – also known as the In & Out.

It was established in 1993 by journalist and writer Auberon Waugh.

Read extracts of all the winning authors of the Bad Sex in Fiction award since 1993

Organisers say the purpose of the prize is “to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction”.

It does not cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature.

Some notable lines from other nominees for this year’s award include those from Wilbur Smith’s War Cry, in which a male character says he would like to explore his lover “like Dr Livingstone and Mr Stanley exploring Africa”.

Another shortlisted work – The Future Won’t Be Long by Turkish-American author Jarett Kobek – likens sexual intercourse to a “pulsing wave”, a “holy burst” and a “congress of wonder”.

Another nominee – The Seventh Function of Language by France’s Laurent Binet – features a woman telling her lover to: “Fuck me like a machine.”

In her shortlisted debut novel Mother of Darkness, Venetia Welby wrote about a character called Tera who “moans in colours” as her lover approaches.

Recent winners include Morrissey’s debut novel List of the Lost, which has become infamous for its use of the phrase “bulbous salutation”. Last year the award went to Italian author Erri De Luca.

Bad Sex in Fiction: extracts from the 2017 shortlist

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Have you noticed it in the air? Perhaps it’s something etched onto the faces of passers-by, or the fuzzy feeling in your stomach that lifts you up and puts a smile on your face. That’s right – 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. In case you haven’t guessed by now, it’s time for the annual Bad Sex in Fiction award, which has just released its shortlist of nominated entries, even as further nominations continue to pour in.

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.

All eyes are now 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!

The Seventh Function of Language – Laurent Binet – “fuck me like a machine”

“He tips her back and lays her on the dissecting table. She takes off her skirt, spreads her legs and tells him: ‘Fuck me like a machine.’ And while her breasts spill out, Simon begins to flow into her assemblage. His tongue-machine slides inside her like a coin in the slot, and Bianca’s mouth, which also has multiple uses, expels air like a bellows, a powerful, rhythmic breathing whose echo – ‘Si! Si!’ – reverberates in the pulsing blood in Simon’s cock. Bianca moans, Simon gets hard, Simon licks Bianca, Bianca touches her breasts, the flayed men get hard, Gallienus starts to wank under his robe, and Hippocrates under his toga. ‘Si! Si!’ Bianca grabs Simon’s dick, which is hot and hard as if it’s just come out of a steel forge, and connects it to her mouth-machine. Simon declaims as if to himself, quoting Artaud in an oddly detached voice: ‘The body under the skin is an overheated factory.’ The Bianca Factory automatically lubricates her devenir-sexe. Their mingled moans ring out through the deserted Anatomical Theatre.”

The Destroyers – Christopher Bollen – “the billiard rack of my penis and testicles”

“Do me a favor,” she says as she turns. She covers her breasts with her swimsuit. The rest of her remains so delectably exposed. The skin along her arms and shoulders are different shades of tan like water stains in a bathtub. Her face and vagina are competing for my attention, so I glance down at the billiard rack of my penis and testicles. “Let’s not tell Charlie and Sonny about us. Let’s leave them out of it. You know how this kind of thing can become a telenovela for everyone else.”

Mother of Darkness – Venetia Welby – “diabolical torso”

“They lie beneath molten sunrise, head nestled in inner elbow, mould of muscle mingling flesh with flesh, one body, soul within soul. The green grass curls around Tera’s left breast as she curves her sleek physique around Matty’s diabolical torso like a vine. Paralysed, complete, the marble statue of the lovers allows itself to be painted by the dawn’s lurid orange spillage. Shards of innocence, they lie in the sweet, sweaty chill of the morning light. Darkened by the sun and dust, Yang curls round s-curved Yin, a perfect fit.”

As a God Might Be – Neil Griffiths – “getting to bed would be awkward”

“The kiss was an order and a disguise. She pushed her hand into his jeans and felt for his cock. She was experienced enough to prepare for disappointment. Her tongue sought out his tongue and whipped around it, teasing it out. There was the taste of whisky, the fresh basil from the salad. Both knew that from where they were standing, getting to the bed would be awkward; he still had his boots on.”

The Future Won’t Be Long – Jarett Kobek – “hypercharged by orgones”

“We made love and we had sex and we had sex and we made love. But reader, again, I implore. Mistake me not. I am not your Pollyanna, I am not your sweet princess. We fucked, we fucked, we fucked, we fucked, we fucked, we fucked. We fucked in the effluvia of our bodies, we fucked in the scent of it, in the sheer stench of it, in the garden of our human flowering. Stained sheets, stained clothes, stained souls, stained towels. Fucked until my pussy ran dry and was rubbed raw, fucked until the Captain yowled outside my door, his gray paws smacking against the wood, fucked until Jon’s daily erections withered into nothingness, unable to support a third or fourth condom, fucked until the arrival of my period, pausing only until the heavy flow ceased, then fucking as Jon’s penis turned cartoon red with my discharge, fucked until celestial bodies rotated on their axes and reversed course in the Heavens, until the bed broke, until the building itself became hypercharged by orgones. Our fucking was a pulsing wave, a holy burst of scared geometry, a congress of wonder.”

War Cry – Wilbur Smith (with David Churchill) – “like Dr Livingstone and Mr Stanley exploring Africa”

“‘Yes…’ he said, taking the robe off her, without the slightest resistance on her part, and laying her down on the bed. ‘I want to explore you, like Dr Livingstone and Mr Stanley exploring Africa…’ He gave her a little kiss on the lips, but then his head moved down her body, following his right hand as it ran down her breastbone and then around each of her breasts in turn. They were not large, but they were pretty and in proportion to the sleekness of the rest of her; the long, flowing lines of a body that was naturally athletic, gifted with speed and strength but still entirely feminine.

Her nipples were a delicate shade of coral pink and they were standing up for him as proudly as little guardsmen on parade. ‘Here for example,’ he whispered, taking her left nipple between his finger and thumb, squeezing it slowly, gently, just to the point where she gave a little gasp and arched her back, and then he ran the palm of one hand over that same nipple touching it as faintly, delicately as he possibly could while his other hand squeezed her right nipple so that she was engulfed by two totally different feelings at one and the same time. Then, still working her right breast with his hand, he lowered his head over her left breast and started playing with it with his lips and tongue and teeth: sometimes kissing her skin, sometimes flicking the nipple with his tongue, then very gently biting it, taking infinite care to apply just the right amount of pressure. Her hands were running through his hair and then stroking his back and then, as he brought his head over to her other breast, she moaned and shuddered with pleasure, her fingernails tore at his skin and her buttocks began to writhe as the need for him took hold.”

Here Comes Trouble – Simon Wroe – “he remembered his parents were in prison”

The details of what happened in that bed, while engrossing, have no business in this report. Nor is it certain that, put into words, they would survive the imprisonment. But it is worth noting that when people shed their clothes they lose certain trappings and conventions. A clothed body is always human or human-like, a naked body always animal or animal-like. Only at close quarters is the full extent of a body’s wildness revealed, like when a bird gets trapped inside a house. One is moved to not entirely human thinking then. One goes towards its animalness.

[…]

Sometimes during he would think about where he was and feel a start of fright at doing this in his father’s place of work – until he remembered his parents were in prison and couldn’t catch him and this would fill him with relief.

 

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

For more information about the award, visit the Literary Review website.

Nominations are in for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award 2017

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Nominations continue to come in as the Literary Review prepares to announce the winner of the notorious ‘Bad Sex in Fiction’ prize, which aims to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction.

Books nominated so far include The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent BinetThe Destroyers by Christopher Bollen, Mother of Darkness by Venetia WelbyAs a God Might Be by Neil GriffithsThe Future Won’t Be Long by Jarett KobekWar Cry by Wilbur Smith (with David Churchill), and Here Comes Trouble by Simon Wroe.

Read extracts of the passages that earned this year’s nominated authors a place on the Bad Sex Award shortlist here

The prize is not intended to cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature. Monique Roffey’s The Tryst, despite being heavily nominated, is therefore not eligible, even though it is full of the sort of lines that tend to be picked up by the judges, such as ‘He lightly kissed my breasts, his beard all grassy, like a great sea sponge.’

Many people also nominated Vince Cable’s novel Open Arms for consideration. However, Open Arms does not qualify simply because its author is a Member of Parliament.

“Fuck me like a machine”

Among the choice passages chosen in this year’s shortlist is the following extract Laurent Binet’sThe Seventh Function of Language: 

“He tips her back and lays her on the dissecting table. She takes off her skirt, spreads her legs and tells him: ‘Fuck me like a machine.’ And while her breasts spill out, Simon begins to flow into her assemblage. His tongue-machine slides inside her like a coin in the slot, and Bianca’s mouth, which also has multiple uses, expels air like a bellows, a powerful, rhythmic breathing whose echo – ‘Si! Si!’ – reverberates in the pulsing blood in Simon’s cock. Bianca moans, Simon gets hard, Simon licks Bianca, Bianca touches her breasts, the flayed men get hard, Gallienus starts to wank under his robe, and Hippocrates under his toga. ‘Si! Si!’ Bianca grabs Simon’s dick, which is hot and hard as if it’s just come out of a steel forge, and connects it to her mouth-machine. Simon declaims as if to himself, quoting Artaud in an oddly detached voice: ‘The body under the skin is an overheated factory.’ The Bianca Factory automatically lubricates her devenir-sexe. Their mingled moans ring out through the deserted Anatomical Theatre.”

The winner of this year’s award will be announced on Thursday 30 November. They will join a long line of illustrious authors – or not so illustrious, in the case of 2015’s winner, Morrissey – to have picked up the booby prize (pun intended, of course), which stretches back to 1993.

Italian novelist Erri De Luca scooped the 2016 award for his book, The Day Before Happiness.

You can read extracts from all the Bad Sex in Fiction Award-winning books in our connoisseur’s compendium.

For more information about the award, visit the Literary Review website.

Nothing in the Rulebook will continue to monitor all updates relating to the Bad Sex in Fiction Awards with (possibly too much) interest.

A repulsive horror? How famous writers responded to winning the notorious ‘Bad Sex in Fiction Award’

 

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Bulging trousers, gasps, moans and sighs – all feature heavily in the award winning passages of “bad sex in fiction”.

Every year in November, the lovers of literature hold their breath as they await news of the winner of one of the most notorious ‘booby’ prizes in the world: the Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

Founded in 1993 by the Literary Review, the award causes titular delight among its hordes of fans, and has developed from a cult-prize into a world famous event – this year’s shortlist and award ceremony was covered by major newspapers and mainstream TV news channels across the globe.

Italian novelist Erri De Luca scooped the 2016 award, which recognises those authors who have produced an outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel. A general consensus seemed to form relatively quickly that this year’s shortlist (which can be read here) didn’t quite live up to 2015’s, which was won by Morrissey. But perhaps this has less to do with the featured writing in both year’s shortlists, and more to do with the way Morrissey reacted to the news his book, The List of the Lost, was first shortlisted – and then announced as the winner.

Indeed, describing the prize as “a repulsive horror”, Morrissey told Uruguayan newspaper El Observador that he had “many enemies, and their biggest motivation, as you know, is to try to use all your achievements against you.”

So perhaps it was the added drama of Morrissey’s reactions that made the 2015 awards seem that bit spicier compared to Erri De Luca – who reacted by ignoring the whole thing.

With that in mind, how have previous winners of the notorious prize responded to the news? We’ve brought together a few choice reactions from these famous authors below.

“Honoured” – Rachel Johnson
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Rachel Johnson’s novel Shire Hill was singled out for her book’s slew of animal metaphors, including comparing her male protagonist’s “light fingers” to “a moth caught inside a lampshade”, and his tongue to “a cat lapping up a dish of cream so as not to miss a single drop”. Literary Review deputy editor Tom Fleming was also disturbed by the heroine’s “grab, to put him, now angrily slapping against both our bellies, inside”.

Johnson said it was an “absolute honour” to win, taking her place alongside former winners including Norman Mailer, Sebastian Faulks and Tom Wolfe. “I’m not feeling remotely grumpy about it. I know that men with literary reputations to polish might find it insulting,” she said, “but if you’ve had a book published in the year any attention is welcome, even if it’s slightly dubious attention of this sort.”

Read Johnson’s full extract alongside the other winners in our Connoisseur’s Compendium.

“Not the least bit surprised” – David Guterson  guterson_300.jpg

David Guterson snaffled the bad sex prize for his fifth novel, Ed King, a modern reimagining of the Oedipus myth. Judges were swayed by a scene introduced as “the part where a mother has sex with her son”, and including the passages: “these sorts of gyrations and five-sense choreographies, with variations on Ed’s main themes, played out episodically between 10 pm and 10 am, when Diane said, ‘Let’s shower'”; and “she took him by the wrist and moved the base of his hand into her pubic hair until his middle fingertip settled on the no-man’s-land between her ‘front parlour’ and ‘back door’ (those were the quaint, prudish terms of her girlhood)”.

“He says in brackets that these are quaint, prudish terms but I don’t think that is sufficient justification for using them,” said Jonathan Beckman, the Literary Review’s assistant editor.

The American author took his triumph in good spirits, saying in response that “Oedipus practically invented bad sex, so I’m not in the least bit surprised”.

Read Guterson’s full extract alongside the other winners in our Connoisseur’s Compendium.

You can lead an English literary wannabe to irony but you can’t make him get it.” – Tom Wolfe  Wolfe_at_White_House.jpg

American author Tom Wolfe, 74, best-known for his novel Bonfire of the Vanities and for his eccentric dress – he normally wears a white suit and carries a cane – was awarded the Bad Sex award for his novel I Am Charlotte Simmons. Judges were swayed by a number of passages of “ghastly and boring prose”, with the following extract drawing particular ire:

“Slither slither slither slither went the tongue. But the hand, that was what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological caverns – oh God, it was not just at the border where the flesh of the breast joins the pectoral sheath of the chest – no, the hand was cupping her entire right – Now!”

Wolfe did not react well to news his novel had won the infamous prize. He described The Literary Review as “a very small, rather old-fashioned magazine”, and went onto say that the British literary judges who awarded him a prize for the year’s worst sex in fiction simply did not understand that his description of a first encounter was meant to be ironic.

“There’s an old saying – ‘You can lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her sing’,” he said. “In this case, you can lead an English literary wannabe to irony but you can’t make him get it.”

“I purposely chose the most difficult scientific word I could to show this is not an erotic scene,” he added. “There’s nothing like a nine-syllable word to chase Eros off the premises.”

Read Wolfe’s full extract alongside the other winners in our Connoisseur’s Compendium.

“I blush to read my offending prose” – Iain Hollingshead

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British journalist and novelist Iain Hollingshead received the 2006 award for his book Twenty Something, specifically because of his description of sex on page 46 of his novel, in which he writes:

“I can feel her breasts against her chest. I cup my hands round her face and start to kiss her properly. She slides one of her slender legs in between mine.

Oh Jack, she was moaning now, her curves pushed up against me, her crotch taut against my bulging trousers, her hands gripping fistfuls of my hair.

She reaches for my belt. I groan too, in expectation. And then I’m inside her, and everything is pure white as we’re lost in a commotion of grunts and squeaks, flashing unconnected images and explosions of a million little particles.”

Judges were particularly keen to highlight the use of the phrase “bulging trousers”, and upon receiving the award, Holligshead wrote an entire article in the Daily Telegraph about the experience.

He said when he first discovered his book had been shortlisted, he “wasn’t too ashamed” because he was “sure I wouldn’t win”.

Yet, when he was announced as the winner, he wrote “I blush to read my offending prose now […] apparently the judges wriggled with mirth at [some of the phrasing] and I don’t blame them. Shamefully, it could have been even worse.”

He added:

“There’s something very British, of course, about celebrating failure. Some writers deserve to be taken down a peg or two, but most nominees take the awards with the good humour with which they’re intended. […] But there’s also something very British about the whole approach to sex. We’re good at smut, less good at genuine erotica. It is difficult to imagine the French or the Italians running a similar award.

It was once said that the English have hot-water bottles rather than sex lives. I think it’s more that we’re still not sufficiently grown-up to read and write about it properly.

No matter. It’s all harmless fun. Until now, friends’ concerns about my budding literary career have revolved around the possibility that I might, unfairly, be confused with the rather more successful Alan Hollinghurst, author of The Line of Beauty.

Since this surprise victory, I feel we’re on a level playing field. And he can keep his Booker Prize.”

Read Hollingshead’s full extract alongside the other winners in our Connoisseur’s Compendium.

“I deserve a Blue Peter badge for my description of sex” – Janet Ellis
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Not an eventual winner of the award, and so placed at the end of this short list, but Janet Ellis nonetheless makes an appearance after her novel The Butcher’s Hook was nominated for the 2016 award, and she wrote a lengthy article in The Guardian in defence of her own book.

The panel of five judges at the Literary Review singled it out for a surprisingly agricultural passage in which Ellis’s heroine Anne consummates her passion for butcher’s apprentice Fub.

“‘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.”

In her article, Ellis claims that she should be praised, rather than singled out negatively, for being willing to write about sex, because “I didn’t set out to titillate or shock, but to have skirted around the issue would have been cowardly. I didn’t let imaginary hecklers get in the way of what I wanted to write, or worry someone who’d watched me when they were a child would suffer the trauma of finding out I was a grown woman after all.”

She added:

“Writing about writing about sex is also difficult, of course. If you’re not describing what happens (when you can use all the available words any which way you choose, in an attempt to make a very old act seem new) you’re a hostage to fortune. Every phrase risks alerting the double entendre police, who are eager to nudge each other in the ribs if anything naughty arises (see?).

[…]

The paragraphs they’ve pulled out (sorry) for the shortlist are scarcely erotic, and weren’t designed to be, but the cumulative effect must have caused some flushing at least. I take some comfort from the fact that if, after such an avalanche, my writing stood out like a ski pole, I must be doing something right.”

Read Ellis’s extract alongside the shortlisted entries for the 2016 awards here.

 

So, dear readers, what do you think? How should writers react to winning prizes of the ilk of the Bad Sex Awards? With good humour and grace? Or are they right to feel aggrieved and challenge the ethos behind the award? Should they react at all? Sebastian Faulks, a previous winner in 1998, ignored the award at the time; but then paid homage to his ‘achievement’ with a couple of references to the experience in his 2015 novel Where my heart used to beat.

There’s no easy answer, of course; but let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

 

 

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

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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.

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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.

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?

Sex in fiction: What we shouldn’t write when we write about sex

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Your sex scene doesn’t have to include every position featured in the Kamasutra. Photography by Roberta Cortese.

Frenzied penises, bulbous salutations, bulging trousers, howling, groans, sighs, minty-flavoured tongues, awkward positions and spasming muscles: these all things you would expect to find in some of the winning entries of the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

Since its debut in 1993, the #BadSex award has been a somewhat light-hearted – with quasi elements of seriousness – spectacle. First created to highlight those authors who have “produced an outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel”, the award nonetheless also stresses an important purpose: “to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory, or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them”.

The awards have increasingly grown in status and are an ever more eagerly anticipated literary event. We’ve previously compiled extracts of all the winning entries (which can be found here), and reviewing these certainly helps us identify those “outstandingly bad” sex scenes the folk at the Literary Review seek to discourage. Consider, for instance, last year’s winning entry from 2015 – from Morrissey’s 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.”

While this account of full figured copulation may not get the pulse racing in the way the author initially hoped, and may even (gasp! Shock! Surprise! Never!) cause some readers to snicker and giggle in amusement; is simply highlighting perceived examples of “bad sex” enough to stamp out cases of these scenes in fiction? It seems more thorough analysis is needed in order to help identify just what it is about these scenes, such as Morrissey’s, which should be avoided by writers – and what authors can do to avoid adding their name to the growing list of Bad Sex in Fiction award winners.

It is, of course, well known that one of the toughest tasks facing writers is to write well and honestly about human sexual relations. It is, after all, technically difficult to convey passion in a way that does not end up sounding either absurd, cringe worthy, or strangely perfunctory and clinical.

Perhaps a problem here is that, in writing about a subject that is still – for whatever reason – vaguely taboo, authors sometimes have a tendency to forget one of the first rules of writing: to “show”, rather than “tell”.

Indeed, it may be more important for writers to focus on the emotional aspect of any sexual encounter between characters, more so than the physical aspect. The physical side of things may be important, but the emotional side may be even more so – especially if there’s a connection between sex and identity.

Often, it seems as though writers have a tendency to forget this rule, and instead begin to overthink their sex scenes. This can see awkward similes begin to invade the text, as with 2001’s Bad Sex award winner Christopher Hart’s Rescue Me, in which sex is likened to a Ranulph Fiennes Antarctic expedition:

“Her hand is moving away from my knee and heading north. Heading unnervingly and with a steely will towards the pole. And, like Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Pamela will not easily be discouraged. I try twitching, and then shaking my leg, but to no avail. At last, disastrously, I try squeezing her hand painfully between my bony thighs, but this only serves to inflame her ardour the more. Ever northward moves her hand, while she smiles languorously at my right ear. And when she reaches the north pole, I think in wonder and terror….she will surely want to pitch her tent.”

Such similes are again on show in 2005’s winning entry – Winkler, by Giles Coren – in which a character ejaculates “in thick stripes on her chest. Like Zorro.”

And this tendency to overthink things can also make it seem as though writers are sometimes reaching for a thesaurus, when they would be better off reaching for a simpler alternative to better convey their intended meaning. As such we have Tom Wolfe’s character in I am Charlotte Simmons exploring a character’s “otorhinolayngological caverns” (if you have no idea about what otorhinolaryngological means, then join the club! But a quick google search will tell you it relates to a medical practice involving the ear, nose, and throat – so we’ll leave you to decipher just what Wolfe was trying to get at in his description of sex, there).

One of the clearest results of writing in such a way is that any frisson that should be conveyed during the scene is lost: so instead of sincerity, the writing distances both themselves and the reader from the scene being described.

Part of this may come down to a lack of confidence – which may seem strange considering some of the authors who have won the award are literary titans who have won some of the biggest prizes in literature. Yet, as erotic romance writer Lily Harlem has said, “A lot of writers aren’t confident enough to write about what’s actually happening. They talk about other things like stars exploding above them, rather than talking about how it actually feels and the emotions. You need to get into the heads of characters for realistic emotion, and dialogue as well is importance – people very rarely have sex in silence.”

It is perhaps this lack of confidence which can also see many writers begin to rely heavily on cliché and euphemisms. Again, this might seem strange considering the calibre of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award recipients. Yet writing about a character’s throbbing “manhood” or “bulging trousers”, accompanied by “screams of passion” or “gasps and sighs” will do to the writing what clichés and euphemisms do to any other scene – which is to make the writing feel awkward, tired, limited and unoriginal.

These are important points to make, because the Bad Sex in Fiction Award is not about bad sex; but rather, about bad prose. In an article for the Financial Times, Jonathan Beckman, senior editor of the Literary Reviewexplains:

“’Bad’ refers to the quality of the writing rather than the nature of intercourse. Unsuccessful, unpleasurable or abortive sex does not qualify per se; nor does kinky, brutal or unwanted sex, however unpalatable that may be.”

So, if you find yourself in the midst of writing a sex scene, and you start thinking it could be improved by using as many adjectives, similes and metaphors as possible to describe “eager manhoods” and women crying out “making a noise somewhere between a beached seal and a police siren” (thank you to 1997’s winner Nicholas Royle’s The Matter of the Heart for that one), just take a moment to step back from your writing and think about the way you’re approaching your description of sex.

Sometimes, changing your approach to the way you’re describing the scene at hand may pay dividends. However, perhaps the most important question to ask – beyond whether you should copy a writer of Phillip Kerr’s calibre and opt to use a word like “gnomon” to describe the male sex organ (quick answer to that question: you shouldn’t) – is whether the sex scene you are writing is absolutely necessary.

This is because good and effective sex scenes should be integral to the story you’re trying to tell. They must advance the narrative and/or character development in a meaningful way, and if they fail to do so, they will look out of place. It’s important to remember that one of the reasons the Bad Sex in Fiction Award was originally founded was in response to a seeming trend among publishers who would insist an author or writer include at least one sex scene in their story – regardless to its relevance to the plot or story – simply reasoning that “sex sells”.

Such logic is a poor excuse for the inclusion of any written action if it is irrelevant to the plot of a novel. As Kurt Vonnegut said: “every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action”. Therefore, if your sex scene fails to do either of these, the best way forward may be to hit the ‘delete’ button, roll up your sleeves, and start afresh – perhaps leaving the scene out entirely. This is not to discourage authors from writing about sex; it is about encouraging them to write well.

 

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