They might be the great chroniclers of what happens between mankind’s ears – giving language to our greatest fears, hopes and experiences – but it turns out authors are terrible at describing what happens between the sheets. Sex scenes are their Waterloo. They can describe what perplexes us, but not what propagates us.
To honour this Achilles’ heel, Monday, December 6 sees the announcement of the annual Literary Review magazine’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award, celebrating the crappiest descriptions of coitus in the past 12 months.
The award has several impressive notches on its bedpost. Founded in 1993 to “draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it,” it has been won by the likes of A A Gill, and Tom Wolfe. In 2007, the award was given posthumously to Norman Mailer. Not to be outdone by his rambunctious rutting contemporary, in 2008, high priest of bad sex John Updike was awarded a lifetime achievement.
This year’s line-up is no-less stellar. Haruki Murakami, Stephen King, Lee Child and James Frey are all up for their clumsy, floral, or just down-right disgusting takes on sweet, sweet love making. Christos Tsiolkas’s in particular would make Errol Flynn consider the priesthood.
To celebrate, let’s have a quiz. It’s what geeks do. Below are extracts from some of this year’s offending passages. In contrast with the author’s impulse of plying the reader with TOO MUCH INFORMATION in their sex scenes, we have removed one choice word or phrase. The gaps are just waiting for you to fill them in. Be as creative and off-the-wall as you like. Heck, the authors certainly were. I’ll supply the answers in a week’s time. The best and funniest will receive an as yet to be decided literary gift from Scotland. Maybe the Celtic equivalent of Be Bold With Bananas, Go Heavy With Haggis.
1) “I’m still erect now, and it shows no sign of subsiding. Neither [BLANK] nor three-digit multiplication nor complex mathematics had managed to bring it down.” – 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
2) “'[BLANK]!’ he called out, the words muffled by his lady’s breast. ‘[BLANK], everybody.’” – The Great Night by Chris Adrian
3) “A little more,” I said. “I don’t know how much. I haven’t been with a woman in a long time.” It turned out there was quite a bit more … At the end she began to gasp. “Oh dear, oh my dear, oh my dear dear God, oh [BLANK]!” – 11.22.63 by Stephen King
4) “For a moment, two moments, three, we’re part of the same organism: some [BLANK] washed up and tangled on the shore, terrifying beautiful, beyond hope.” – Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller
5) “He never dared to do it for more than brief moments, dip into it quickly, as with a spoon. To make discoveries about a woman via the qualities of her [BLANK].” – Parallel Stories by Peter Nádas
6) “It didn’t take long for the beautiful and perfect Ed King to ejaculate for the fifth time in twelve hours, while looking like [BLANK].” – Ed King by David Guterson
7) “She felt delicious jolts of pleasure race through her. It had been a long time since they had taken time to explore the [BLANK].” – The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M Auel
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