Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The Literary Review, an established British magazine, each year gives a Bad Sex award. The magazine is Britain's principal monthly literary magazine. Founded in 1979, it has a circulation of approximately 45,000, and reviews a wide range of published books, including fiction, history, politics, biography and travel.

Each year since 1993, Literary Review's annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award is presented to the author who produces the worst description of a sex scene in a novel. 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."

(I Googled. Despite a dozen references to it, I couldn't find a picture of the actual award).

The purpose of the award is: "To draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it."

In case this intrigues you, as a reader or perhaps as a writer, and you'd like to study the work of author's who have won this award, the winners of the Bad Sex in Fiction award include:
1993: Melvyn Bragg, A Time to Dance
1994: Philip Hook, The Stonebreakers
1995: Philip Kerr, Gridiron
1996: David Huggins, The Big Kiss:
1997: Nicholas Royle, The Matter of the Heart
1998: Sebastian Faulks, Charlotte Gray
1999: A. A. Gill, Starcrossed
2000: Sean Thomas, Kissing England
2001: Christopher Hart, Rescue Me
2002: Wendy Perriam, Tread Softly
2003: Aniruddha Bahal, Bunker 13
2004: Tom Wolfe, I Am Charlotte Simmons
2005: Giles Coren, Winkler (article)
2006: Iain Hollingshead, Twenty Something
2007: Norman Mailer, The Castle in the Forest
2008: Rachel Johnson, Shire Hell
also: John Updike, was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award
2009: Jonathan Littell, The Kindly Ones

The winner of this coveted award for 2010 was novelist Rowan Somerville's second novel, The Shape of Her.

One sentence, particularly, has been noted by judges as well as other British literary critics. Using the image of a butterfly collector Someville wrote: "Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her."

Somerville accepted the honor,, saying: "There is nothing more English than bad sex, so on behalf of the entire nation I would like to thank you."

The magazine's judges did consider making Tony Blairs book, "The Journey," the first non-fiction book ever nominated. Blair wrote the excruciatingly unforgettable description in his autobiography, of himself with his wife Cherie on the night of 12 May 1994: "I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following my instinct."

The judges finally concluded that the passage was too brief to merit it. The other contenders for this year's award included the hugely-acclaimed Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, The Slap, by Christos Tsiolkas, and poet Craig Raine's first prose novel, Heartbreak.

Here is a link, that will take you to the award winning writing in Someville's book,"The Shape of Her.".
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