The shortlist for the Literary Review's "Bad Sex in Fiction" award were recently announced, and as usual, they're a squick-inducing comedy goldmine. In case you've never had the pleasure, and it is not evident from the award's title, this is an honor bestowed on authors who have written the most uncomfortable and unpleasant descriptions of sexual activity in a given year. The list itself is here, and features such literary luminaries as Philip Roth, Amos Oz, and Nick Cave. And some of the passages, well, there are some real doozies, most of which would make me blush to excerpt in any great detail (which is the point, I suppose).
Here's a sure-fire crinkler from Paul Theroux's Dead Hands:
"'Baby.' She took my head in both hands and guided it downward, between her fragrant thighs. 'Yoni puja – pray, pray at my portal.'"
And honestly it just gets worse from there. Another florid winner is the floridly titled The Naked Name of Love by Sanjida O'Connell (who is also the only woman nominated this year):
"...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. He felt they were lacking some vital ingredient; she was only partly engaged, the building explosion of sensation that had made her unfurl like a flower, a morning glory greeting the sun, was missing."
What is even happening in that passage? Enough to make me wonder if any of these writers have ever in fact made the beast with two backs.* Also "The Naked Name of Love" (which, alas, is not in print in the United States) sounds to me like the kind of title a scriptwriter would make up when he wanted Hugh Grant's love interest to be demonstrated as reading something goofy and frivolous.
The winner of the award will be announced in a ceremony on November 30 at London's In & Out club. I don't know if that was chosen as the site because it's actually a swank and famous club, or if it was just the punniest place the Brits could find. The award itself is a plaster foot and it ... wait, the award is a plaster foot? Seriously? God, that is weird. What is wrong with people?
*Shakespeare reference for +10 points.
[Image of advertisement from 1926 voyeurism magazine from Wikimedia Commons.]