Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award

Each year since 1993, the Bad Sex in Fiction 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. The prize is not intended to cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature.

The Award was established by Rhoda Koenig, a literary critic, and Auberon Waugh, at that time editor of Literary Review.

Bad Sex 2015

erica-jong-fear-of-dying-cover-244Books nominated so far for the 23rd Bad Sex in Fiction Award include Before, During, After by Richard Bausch, Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen, Against Nature by Tomas Espedal, Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, The Making of Zombie Wars by Aleksandar Hemon, Fear of Dying by Erica Jong, List of the Lost by Morrissey, and The Martini Shot by George Pelecanos.

The books in question demonstrate the rude health of modern fiction. Morrissey’s appearance represents the first time an author from the distinguished Penguin Classics stable has made it onto the shortlist. This year’s authors also include a celebrated screenwriter of The Wire (Pelecanos) and a writer well known for her exploration of female desire (Jong).

Michael Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott’s Call Me Dave was brought to the judges’ attention because of its suggestion that ‘the future PM inserted a private part of his anatomy into the animal’s mouth’. That assertion was so flimsily corroborated as to resemble fiction but, regrettably, the biographers displayed insufficient literary brio to merit serious consideration.

The winner of this year’s award will be announced on Tuesday 1 December.


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