You are here:

Bad sex writing awards: vine-like nipples, soap abuse and so much more

It's that lovely time of the year when the Literary Review in London doles out its pre-Christmas goodies to book-lovers around the world. An orgasmic explosion of bad sex writing penned by the best and the brightest of the literary world. The 2011 shortlist honoring the "crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel" includes Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, Lee Child and James Frey.

The good news/bad news is that Murakami is the only literary giant on the list, in the dock for banal nuggets such as these from his 1Q84 trilogy: "[Her breasts] seemed to be virtually uninfluenced by the force of gravity, the nipples turned beautifully upward, like a vine's new tendrils seeking sunlight." A bit Mills & Boon-ish, perhaps, but hardly crude or tasteless. More promising is this line: "I'm still erect now, and it shows no sign of subsiding. Neither Sonny and Cher nor three-digit multiplication nor complex mathematics had managed to bring it down."

This year, Murakami is the only literary giant on the list, in the dock for banal nuggets from his 1Q84 trilogy. Reuters

Other contenders include Chris Adrian, whose The Great Night includes this little beauty: "His lady lifted to the stars on his impossibly stiff, impossibly elegant cock." Impossible and implausible. The usually lovely David Guterson – he of Snow Falling On Cedars fame – wildly misses the mark with: "In the shower, Ed stood with his hands at the back of his head, like someone just arrested, while she abused him with a bar of soap."

Then there's the merely graphic, as in Christos Tsiolkas' Dead Europe: "My tongue furiously worked the craters." And that's likely the tamest sentence in a novel the Guardian describes as not suitable for the breakfast table. Likely reason: the widely acclaimed novel contains violent scenes of paedophilia, coprophilia, and drinking of menstrual blood.

If that sounds a bit too exciting for good Indian folk, we can always revel instead in this amusing passage from the great King of horror:

"She said, "Don't make me wait, I've had enough of that," and so I kissed the sweaty hollow of her temple and moved my hips forward ... She gasped, retreated a little, then raised her hips to meet me. "Sadie? All right?"

"Ohmygodyes," she said and I laughed. She opened her eyes and looked up at me with curiosity and hopefulness. "Is it over, or is there more?"

"A little more," I said. "I don't know how much. I haven't been with a woman in a long time."

Finally, a sex scene for us, the clueless masses.

Not that we Indians have been lax in these tawdry matters. Aniruddh Bahal won the Bad Sex Award in 2003 for his too-literal autoeroticism: "She picks up a Bugatti's momentum. You want her more at a Volkswagen's [ Images ] steady trot." The very next year, Siddharth Dhanvant Shangvi did us proud with: "Was it on the bed that she sat on him, her weasel-like loins clutching and unclutching his lovely, long, louche manhood, as though squeezing an orange for its juice?"

Shangvi, however, was decisively outdone by the far-more-inventive Tarun Tejpal in 2005 in The Alchemy of Desire:

Any body part could be joined to any body part. And it would result in a masterpiece. Toe and tongue. Nipple and penis. Finger and the bud. Armpit and mouth. Nose and clitoris. Clavicle and gluteus maximus. Mons veneris and phallus indica. The Last Tango of Labia Minora. Circa 1987. Vasant Kunj. By Salvador Dalí. Draughtsmen: Fizznme.

To his credit, Tejpal shared the shortlist that year with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie and John Updike. Oh to be shamed in such illustrious company. The winner that year was — most disappointingly — the lesser-known food critic Giles Coren.

The most amusing nominee in the history of the awards is surely Tony Blair who earned the unprecedented honour of being the first non-fiction writer shortlisted for the award. More embarrassing is the fact that the offending passage in his memoir was a sex scene with his own wife: "That night she cradled me in her arms and soothed me; told me what I needed to be told; strengthened me. On that night of 12 May 1994, I needed that love Cherie gave me, selfishly. I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following my instinct." Ouch!

Over the years, the Bad Sex Awards have acquired a certain perverse glory for its unfortunate winners. As the Londoner's Diary notes. "the prize has had the opposite of the desired effect, as winning the Bad Sex Award now gives a Viagra-fuelled boost to purchases."

Bad Sex Awards: the little blue pill for literature. Because we all need a little help sometimes, even good old Tony Blair.