And The Nominees For…

…Bad Sex Writing in Fiction are:

  • Paul Theroux for A Dead Hand
  • Nick Cave for The Death of Bunny Munro
  • Philip Roth for The Humbling
  • Jonathan Littell for The Kindly Ones
  • Amos Oz for Rhyming Life and Death
  • John Banville for The Infinities
  • Anthony Quinn for The Rescue Man
  • Simon Van Booy for Love Begins in Winter
  • Sanjida O’Connell for The Naked Name of Love
  • Richard Milward for Ten Storey Love Song

Although there are ten finalists, the favourite to win is Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Roth for The Humbling in which the ageing actor Simon converts Pegeen, a lesbian, to heterosexuality…

The Literary Review singled out a scene in which Simon and Pegeen pick up a girl from a bar and convince her to take part in a threesome. Simon looks on as Pegeen uses her green dildo to great effect.

“This was not soft porn. This was no longer two unclothed women caressing and kissing on a bed. There was something primitive about it now, this woman-on-woman violence, as though in the room filled with shadows, Pegeen were a magical composite of shaman, acrobat, and animal. It was as if she were wearing a mask on her genitals, a weird totem mask, that made her into what she was not and was not supposed to be.”

Roth can comfort himself with the fact that a roll call of literary fiction’s great and good, from Booker winner John Banville to acclaimed Israeli novelist Amos Oz, Goncourt winner Jonathan Littell and Whitbread winner Paul Theroux, have made it into the line-up for this year’s bad sex prize, set up by Auberon Waugh to “draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it”. [Link]

I’m no writer but I know what I like to read and the above passage is something I wouldn’t want to even skim through…One must note that this award is given for the quality of the writing, not the sexual act itself…I’m sure writing about sex is one of the hardest things to do and authors (even prize winning ones) often forget that readers are not interested in the specifics of the act but the reactions of the characters and the build up to the act…One of the problems of getting into too much detail is that what turns one reader on may turn another off, so why get into the hassle of writing specifics? Why did Roth write “This was not soft porn” if he knew it could be taken as such? Was he trying to gain literary respectability by inserting that sentence? I’m sure the book would have been just as good or just as bad without the nominated passage, but at least he wouldn’t have been made fun of…

May the best writer win…

[If you are interested in reading short listed passages from previous years, please visit the Literary Review website]


10 thoughts on “And The Nominees For…

  1. Do they really work to get themselves nominated for this?! On purpose?

    Me: Some do…This is what Nick Cave’s (‘The Death of Bunny Munro’) British publisher Canongate told the Guardian “Frankly, we would have been offended if he wasn’t shortlisted”…The book is about a crude, sexually obsessed traveling salesman called Bunny…


  2. Commerce has much to do with this. After one has toasted the literary finesse and all other attributes, that book has to sell. Modern day “literary culture”, if you will, is all about big names, obscene sums of money contracted and large advances.

    You must not be surprised if publishers and most readers will regard sexually explicit passages as the key ingredient to spice up any novel. A staid narrative will probably draw some tepid applause but you can be sure of a thunderous reception if you pander to the cravings of an eager audience.

    This is now the norm as no reader complains about a little titillation. The purists, in a clear minority, are a lost voice in a noisy jungle. Porn sells (soft or XXX variety) and that is all that matters at the end of the day.


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