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. 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.
Winner of the 25th Bad Sex in Fiction Award
Christopher Bollen has won the 25th annual Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award for The Destroyers (Scribner).
The award was announced at a lavish ceremony on Thursday 30 November at the In & Out (Naval & Military) Club in St James’s Square, London, where the 400 guests raised a toast to the winner.
The judges of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award were swayed by a scene involving The Destroyers’ protagonist, Ian, and his former girlfriend on the island of Patmos, where their relationship has been rekindled: “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.”
Christopher Bollen is based in New York, and is editor at large of Interview magazine. The Destroyers is his third novel. He was unable to attend the ceremony. The judges said in a statement: “Christopher Bollen has prevailed against strong competition. In the week that Prince Harry announced his engagement to Meghan Markle, it seems only fitting that Britain’s most eligible literary prize has been snapped up by an American.”
Among the other shortlisted books were The Seventh Function of Language by Prix Goncourt winner Laurent Binet (“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”); Venetia Welby’s Mother of Darkness (“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”); and War Cry by Wilbur Smith (“He kissed her and she responded and the boundaries between them blurred, like two watercolours on a piece of paper, joining as one to create something entirely new”).
Books nominated so far include The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet, The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen, Mother of Darkness by Venetia Welby, As a God Might Be by Neil Griffiths, The Future Won’t Be Long by Jarett Kobek, War Cry by Wilbur Smith (with David Churchill), and Here Comes Trouble by Simon Wroe. At the time of writing, nominations continue to come in.
The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction. 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.
The winner of this year’s award will be announced on Thursday 30 November.
Winner of the 24th Bad Sex in Fiction Award
Erri De Luca has won the 24th annual Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award for The Day Before Happiness (Allen Lane).
The award was announced at a lavish ceremony on Wednesday 30 November at the In & Out (Naval & Military) Club in St James’s Square, London, where the 400 guests raised a toast to the winner.
The Corriere della Sera has hailed De Luca as ‘the writer of the decade’. He has won countless prizes, including, in 2013, the European Prize for Literature, presented to an author for a body of work ‘which best represents the cultural dimensions of Europe’. The judges of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award were swayed by a scene between the Neapolitan orphan protagonist and a mysterious woman he has watched from afar: ‘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.’
De Luca was unable to attend the ceremony and unavailable for comment. The judges said in a statement: ‘This adds a further accolade to De Luca’s already distinguished list of achievements. The winning entry is a reminder that, even in the wake of Brexit, Bad Sex knows no borders.’
The Day Before Happiness prevailed over fierce competition. The shortlist also included A Doubter’s Almanac by Iowa Writing Workshop teacher Ethan Canin (‘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’); Tom Connolly’s Men Like Air (‘Often she cooked exotic meals and put chillies or spices in her mouth while preparing the food and sucked him while the food cooked and then told him to fuck her while his manhood was burning rock-hard with fire.’); and The Butcher’s Hook, by former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis (‘I am pinned like wet washing with his peg’).
Books nominated so far for the 24th Bad Sex in Fiction Award include A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin, Men Like Air by Tom Connolly, The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca, The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis, Leave Me by Gayle Forman and The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler.
This year there has been the usual flood of nominations, with authors ranging from Ian McEwan to Eimear McBride. The judges’ attention was particularly caught by several passages from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am, including lines such as: ‘He jerked off with the determination of someone within sight of Everest’s summit, having lost all his friends and Sherpas, having run out of supplemental oxygen, but preferring death to failure.’ However, these authors ultimately failed to make the grade.
So too did Donald Trump, despite his best efforts to crown his recent electoral triumph with a still more glorious prize. Several readers nominated his ‘locker-room talk’, but this had to be discounted on the grounds that the award only covers fiction.
The books under consideration nonetheless represent a distinguished selection of authors. They include a New York Times bestselling author (Forman), a European Prize for Literature winner (De Luca), a teacher of creative writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (Canin) and a former presenter of Blue Peter (Ellis).
The winner of this year’s award will be announced on Wednesday 30 November.
The winner of the 23rd Bad Sex in Fiction Award
Morrissey has won the 23rd annual Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award for List of the Lost
(Penguin). The prize was presented by the lawyer, columnist and performer Nancy Dell’Olio.
The award was announced at a lavish ceremony on Tuesday 1 December 2015 at the In & Out (Naval & Military) Club in St James’s Square, London, where the 400 guests raised a toast to the winner.
List of the Lost is Morrissey’s debut novel. His memoir, Autobiography, was released by Penguin Classics in 2013. List of the Lost follows four Boston relay runners who are cursed by an old man in the woods. The judges were swayed by an ecstatic scene involving Ezra, one of the athletes, and his plucky girlfriend, Eliza: ‘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.’
Morrissey rose to fame in the 1980s as the lyricist and frontman of The Smiths, before launching a lauded solo career spanning ten studio albums to date.
Morrissey was unable to attend due to touring commitments and was unavailable for comment. As he explains in List of the Lost: ‘Sex was always there – everywhere photographically, in print, in film, so expansively thought about that almost nothing more could need to be said about it…’
List of the Lost prevailed over competition from a vibrant and varied shortlist, including The Martini Shot, by the celebrated screenwriter of The Wire, George Pelecanos (‘She stroked my pole and took off my briefs, and I got between her and spread her muscular thighs with my knees and rubbed myself against her until she was wet as a waterslide’); Joshua Cohen’s Book of Numbers (‘Her mouth was intensely ovoid, an almond mouth, of citrus crescents. And under that sling, her breasts were like young fawns, sheep frolicking in hyssop – Psalms were about to pour out of me’); and Fear of Dying, by the creator of the ‘zipless fuck’, Erica Jong (‘While I lie next to him, astounded by his presence still, he opens my silk robe and touches my cunt as if he were Adam just discovering Eve’s pussy’).
Books 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.
December 2017 Issue
Making Sweet Assemblage
December 2016 Issue
'To the audacious swell below'
The Bad Sex in Fiction Award 2016
December 2015 Issue
The Hunting of the Kundalini
December 2014 Issue
Twitching Fairy Penguin
December 2013 Issue
Like Crystal Ladybirds
December 2012 Issue
Helpless Dollops of Custard
December 2011 Issue
Bad Sex Report 2011
December 2010 Issue
Hours of Pleasure
December 2009 Issue
Bad Sex Report 2009
December 2008 Issue
'Call Me Sukie'
December 2005 Issue
December 2004 Issue
Bad Sex Report 2004
December 2003 Issue
I Can't Take Any More
December 1997 Issue
A Sad Plop
January 1995 Issue
Towards a Discreet Form of Censorship