Bad Sex Awards

The Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award is billed as “Britain’s most dreaded literary Prize” although, as Alexander Waugh suggested in his tongue-in-cheek opening of proceedings on 6 December 2011, there are some publishers who would like nothing better than for their author to win in order to boost sales. As Waugh is always at pains to note, the awards, inaugurated by his father, Auberon Waugh, in 1993, “are intended to draw attention to, and hopefully discourage, poorly written, redundant or crude passages of a sexual nature in fiction.”

The Awards ceremony, now in its 19th year, takes place at the appropriately named In & Out Club in St James's Square. It’s always packed to the rafters and a lot of fun.

These may be austere times, but the unrestrained prose on offer was some of the funniest of recent years. Two actors Lucy Beresford and Arthur House read tantalising snippets from the shortlisted books.

These included 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, Parallel Stories by Péter Nádas, 11.22.63 by Stephen King, Ed King by David Guterson, The Affair by Lee Child, and Dead Europe by Christos Tsiolkas.

Memorably, the extract from Tsiolkas’s Dead Europe was only one sentence long but full of spicy prose:

My tongue furiously worked the craters of her cunt and I felt the blood, coarse and thick, trickle onto my lips and into my mouth and onto my tongue and down my gut and I forced my lips over her clit and sucked on it till I felt I was drawing her into my very body and the blood kept flowing onto my lips and into my mouth and my guts and I rubbed my face across the hair and skin and meat of her and as I licked at her cunt and arse I opened my mouth wide and bit into her thigh and I did not hear her squeal for all I was aware of was the clean neat puncture and the blood that began to flow from it which fell onto my tongue and into my mouth and my gut, and her blood pumped through me and calmed the agonies in my belly and head and I knew I was alive… and so on.

This would have been my first choice, but this year’s winner is David Guterson. Ed King (Bloomsbury) is a contemporary reworking of the Oedipus myth. Unlike some previous recipients, Guterson, whose debut novel Snow Falling on Cedars, met with huge critical acclaim and won the won the 1995 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, accepted with good grace. Unable to attend in person, he sent a message c/o his English publisher, saying “Oedipus practically invented bad sex, so I'm not in the least bit surprised.”

The Literary Review always enlists the support of a surprise celebrity to present the customary plaster foot and this year the delightful actress Barbara Windsor, of Carry On and Eastenders fame, did the honours.

It was Guterson’s description of a sex scene between mother and son that finally tipped the balance in his favour:

These sorts of gyrations and five-sense choreographies, with variations on Ed’s main themes, played out episodically between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m., when Diane said, “Let’s shower.” 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. After a while he shut his eyes, and Diane, wielding her fingernails now and staring at his face, helped him out with two practiced hands, one squeezing the family jewels, the other vigorous with the soap-and-warm-water treatment. It didn’t take long for the beautiful and perfect Ed King to ejaculate for the fifth time in twelve hours, while looking like Roman public-bath statuary. Then they rinsed, dried, dressed, and went to an expensive restaurant for lunch.