Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 Bad Sex in Fiction Award Nominees Announced

Courtney Love presents the 2006 Bad Sex in Fiction Award
to Iain Hollingshead
for his novel, Twentysomething.
The nominees for Literary Review's 2009 Bad Sex in Fiction Awards were announced last Friday evening.

The awards were established by the editors to “gently dissuade authors and publishers from including unconvincing, perfunctory, embarrassing or redundant passages of a sexual nature in otherwise sound literary novels.” They are annually awarded to the author who produces the worst, most laughable and/or jarring description of a sexual encounter in a modern novel.

In other words, when sex scenes go horribly wrong secondary to punctuation, syntax, or falling off a cliff into a seething, moist cleft of sexual imagination, and penetrating, deeper into the black velvet-painting darkness, with pen and paper meeting as one in a turgid embrace that ends with exhausted stylus squirting its bounty directly upon the face of the laid paper, the now defiled page laying there, humiliated but with a twisted smile. "Did you comma?" the pen asked. "I prefer verso to recto," the paper said, suggestively, "semi-colon."

The award itself is in the form of a "semi-abstract trophy representing sex in the 1950s," which depicts a naked woman draped over an open book.

This year’s nominees are (with brief excerpts from offending passages):

The Humbling by Philip Roth
“It was English that Pegeen spoke when she looked over from where she was, now resting on her back beside Tracy, combing the little black cat-o’-nine-tails through Tracy’s long hair, and, with that kid-like smile that showed her two front teeth, said to him softly, ‘Your turn. Defile her.’ She took Tracy by one shoulder, whispered “Time to change masters,” and gently rolled the stranger’s large, warm body toward his. ‘Three children got together,’ he said, ‘and decided to put on a play,’ whereupon his performance began.”

The Infinities by John Banville
“Alba has stepped out of her dress in one flowing, stylised movement, like a torero, the object of all eyes, trailing his cape in the dust before the baffled bull; underneath, she is naked. She looks to the side, downwards; her eyelids are so shinily pale and fine that Adam can see clearly all the tiny veins in them, blue as lapis. He takes a floating step forward until his chest is barely touching the tips of her nipples, behind which he senses all the gravid tremulousness of her breasts. She puts her hands flat against his chest and leans into him in a simulacrum of a swoon, making a mewling sound.”

Rhyming Life and Death by Amos Oz
“Attentive to the very faintest of signals, like some piece of sonar equipment that can detect sounds in the deep imperceptible to the human ear, he registers the flow of tiny moans that rise from inside her as he continues to excite her, receiving and unconsciously classifying the fine nuances that differentiate one moan from another, in his skin rather than in his ears he feels the minute variations in her breathing, he feels the ripples in her skin, as though he has been transformed into a delicate seismograph that intercepts and instantly deciphers her body’s reactions, translating what he has discovered into skillful, precise navigation, anticipating and cautiously avoiding every sandbank, steering clear of each underwater reef, smoothing any roughness except that slow roughness that comes and goes and comes and turns and goes and comes and strokes and goes and makes her whole body quiver.”

The Naked Name of Love by Sanjida O’Connell
“This time her body felt real to him, not fragments from a dream, or a surreal hallucination, but there was a certain clumsiness, an awkwardness on his part as if it were the first time for him now that he was bereft of the herb that made him feel how she felt. They were not in tune and it was as if he were splashing about helplessly on the shore of some great ocean, waiting for a current, or the right swimming stroke to sweep him effortlessly out to sea.”

A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta by Paul Theroux
“‘Baby.’ She took my head in both hands and guided it downward, between her fragrant thighs. ‘Yoni puja – pray, pray at my portal.’

“She was holding my head, murmuring ‘Pray,’ and I did so, beseeching her with my mouth and tongue, my licking a primitive form of language in a simple prayer. It had always worked before, a language she had taught me herself, the warm muffled tongue.”

The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave
“He slips his hands under her cotton vest and her body spasms and slackens and he cups her small, cold breasts in his hands and feels the hard pearls of her nipples, like tiny secrets, against the barked palms of his hands. He feels the gradual winding down of her dying heart and can see a bluish tinge blossoming on the skin of her skull through her thin, ironed hair.”

The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell
“Una had stretched out on the bed of the guillotine; I lifted the lunette, made her put her head through it, and closed it on her long neck, after carefully lifting her heavy hair. She was panting... Leaning over the lunette, my own neck beneath the blade, I whispered to her: ‘I’m going to pull the lever, I’m going to let the blade drop.’ She begged me: ‘Please, f*** my pussy.’ – ‘No.’ I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg.”

The Rescue Man by Anthony Quinn
“He had the sensation of journeying through veils, of a headlong descent towards disclosure, and the prospect of pausing to fiddle with more buttons was not to be borne.”

Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy
“Hannah’s body was swallowing, digesting all that was mine to give. For those final moments, we existed seamlessly – all memory negated by a desire that both belonged to us and controlled us.

“After, we kept very still, like the only two roots of the forest.”

Ten Storey Love Song by Richard Milward
“Let’s have sex, they think simultaneously, couples having strange mind-reading powers after months and months of trying to figure each other out. Panting, Georgie starts rubbing her hands round Bobby’s biological erogenous zones, turning his trousers into a tent with lots of rude organs camping underneath. Bobby sucks all the freckles and moles off her chest, pulling the GD bib wheeeeeeeeeee over her head and flicking Georgie’s turquoise bra off her shoulders”

2006 Bad Sex in Fiction Award runner-up Tim Willocks declares: "I have long admired Literary Review for creating this award - if only because it's a much better guide to a good read than those purveyors of powerful sleeping drugs, the Booker, the Pulitzer, the Goncourt et al."

Previous winners of Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award include Tom Wolfe, AA Gill, Sebastian Faulks, and Melvyn Bragg.

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