Source : The Guardian
Annual prize intended to show up the worst sexual description in fiction singles out some famous names for a second time – but no women
Female authors have managed to avoid including bad sex scenes in their novels this year – at least according to the Literary Review, which has announced an all-male shortlist for that least-coveted of literary prizes, the Bad sex in fiction award.
Haruki Murakami, often named as a contender for the Nobel prize, makes the cut for passages from his latest novel Killing Commendatore in which impossible amounts of semen are ejaculated by the protagonist. The controversial US novelist James Frey, who was exposed for inventing parts of his memoir A Million Little Pieces, was selected for a scene in his novel Katerina described by judges as “almost like wish fulfilment”.
The shortlist for the award, which is for “the most egregious passage of sexual description in a work of fiction”, 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.
“I am delighted to have been shortlisted for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award, particularly alongside the great Haruki Murakami, and I hope I win,” Gough told the Guardian. “For years now, some of the best and most interesting writing about sex has been shortlisted annually by the sniggering mutual masturbators of the Literary Review. It would be a huge honour to join such former winners as John Updike, Tom Wolfe, and Ben Okri.”
No women made the shortlist for this year’s prize, which exists to “draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction”. In the award’s 25-year history, just three female authors have won: Rachel Johnson, Nancy Huston and Wendy Perriam.
The Literary Review’s Frank Brinkley would not “officially” admit this meant that women wrote better sex scenes than men. “There has been some great bad sex from women in the past but this year men are the prime offenders,” he said. “There were a couple of women on the nominal longlist, which we don’t publish, but we decided they weren’t bad enough.”
Instead, “serial offenders” Frey and Murakami were picked by judges in what Brinkley described as “a pretty good year”. Some sex scenes were “so over the top as to be almost outrageous”, said Brinkley, pointing to this line in Scoundrels: “I yearned again for the cogs of her Iron Maiden to grind my glans around inside her like an opera singer with a mouth lozenge.”
A common thread of “anatomical confusion” could be found in most of the novels, he said; particularly the male ability to produce semen, seen in both Murakami’s novel (“Again and again, semen poured from me, overflowing her vagina, turning the sheets sticky”) and Frey’s Katerina, which includes eight references to ejaculate in a one-page passage.
“[Katerina] seemed to one judge to be almost like wish fulfilment; it’s this sex which is so bombastic and mechanical, it doesn’t feel very real,” said Brinkley. “There’s also the collision of the artful – ‘we’re looking into each other’s eyes’ – with the specifically physical details … there’s a clash of registers there.”
The winner will be announced on 3 December at the appropriately named In and Out Club in London. Many previous winners have not attended the ceremony – including Morrissey, who won in 2015 for his novel List of the Lost and said that he felt it “best to maintain an indifferent distance” from the prize, “because there are too many good things in life to let these repulsive horrors pull you down”. Okri issued a statement saying that “a writer writes what they write and that’s all there is to it”, while Wolfe said that “you can lead an English literary wannabe to irony but you can’t make him get it”.