We could sing the praises of a well-written novel with titillating love scenes all day. But what about a fantastic book with sexytime excerpts so absurdly horrible you wonder how they ever passed an editor?
Well, now that's worthy of an award.
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Or so thinks the Literary Review, a monthly British publication that (usually) praises top-notch literature, but holds an annual Bad Sex in Literature Award ceremony to congratulate works of poorly written erotic writing. On November 25th, the journal will unveil this year's winner at London's In and Out club. Last year, Norman Mailer (who checked out just a few weeks too early to accept) won the award for a few choice phrasings in his last novel, The Castle In the Forest. Of all the others contenders, it was Mailer's description of a man as "soft as coil of excrement" and a woman who "took his old battering ram into her lips," that secured him the victory.
So what's the criteria for making the nominee list for a Bad Sex in Literature award? Former editor Auberon Waugh describes the motive of such a thing as a way of "gently dissuading authors and publishers from including unconvincing, perfunctory, embarrassing, or redundant passages of a sexual nature in otherwise sound literary novels."
So, yeah, the book has to actually be good, so getting on the list is a feat in and of itself. One of this year's nominees Ann Allestree, author of Triptych of a Young Wolf, which features weird "hybrid sex" between a wolf, the story's hero, and the hero's girlfriend, said it was "heartening" to be included in such a "list of distinguished writers."
This year, editor Jonathon Beckman says the nominees run the gamut of being way too serious about sex, to insanely ridiculous, to illogically confusing.
Author Paulo Coehlo (Brida) describes two characters screwing as the "moment when Eve was reabsorbed into Adam's body and the two halves became a creation." On the other hand, Alastrai Campbell (All in the Mind) describes sex as almost clinical: "he wasn't sure where his penis was in relation to where he wanted it to be....she started making purring noises, now with little squeals punctuating them...he was pretty sure he was losing his virginity."
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Pretty sure? He was pretty sure? Losing one's virginity is always somewhat anticlimactic, but c'mon. Bad sex is torturous enough in the flesh. Let's all try to avoid it in our books too.
LIST OF NOMINEES FOR 2008