I recently learned of an important literary award, the “Bad Sex in Fiction Award", established by Britain’s Literary Review. The award aims to “draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.”
Last year’s winner, Iain Hollingshead, author of “Twenty Something” won with his description of “a commotion of grunts and squeaks, flashing unconnected images and explosions of a million little particles.” His description of “bulging trousers” apparently put him over the top.
The runner-up was Tim Willcocks’ medieval action novel, “The Religion,” for a scene in which characters grapple passionately in a forge “across the cold steel face of the anvil.” “In the pit of his stomach a cauldron boiled and some seething and nameless brew rose up through his spine and filled his brain with the Devil’s Fire,” Willcocks writes.
Other finalists included Mitchell’s 1980s coming-of-age story, “Black Swan Green,” for a passage in which one character’s breasts are compared to “a pair of Danishes” and another’s to “two Space Hoppers.”
Mark Haddon, the best-selling author of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,” was shortlisted for his description of rapture in his latest novel, “A Spot of Bother”: “Images went off in her head like little fireworks. The smell of coconut. Brass firedogs.”
Curious, I researched past winners and found these truly memorable scenes:
Villages by John Updike:
"A flock of crows, six or eight, raucously rasping at one another, thrashed into the top of an oak on the edge of the square of sky. The heavenly invasion made his heart race; he looked down at his prick, silently begging it not to be distracted; his mind fought skidding into crows and woods, babies and Phyllis, and his prick stared back at him with its one eye clouded by a single drop of pure seminal yearning. He felt suspended at the top of an arc. Faye leaned back on the blanket, arranging her legs in an M of receptivity, and he knelt between them like the most abject and craven supplicant who ever exposed his bare ass to the eagle eyes of a bunch of crows.
Faye took him in hand. He slipped in. He became an adulterer. He went for the last inch. She grunted, at her own revelation. His was that her cunt did not feel like Phyllis's. Smoother, somehow simpler, its wetness less thick, less of a sauce, more of a glaze. It was soon over. He could not help himself, he was so excited, proud, and nervous. When he was done, he opened his eyes, and saw this stranger's face an inch from his, seemingly asleep, the closed eyelids showing a thin pulse, her long lips curved self-lullingly."
“Less of a sauce, more of a glaze….?” Wow.
And how about Winkler by Giles Coren:
"And he came hard in her mouth and his dick jumped around and rattled on her teeth and he blacked out and she took his dick out of her mouth and lifted herself from his face and whipped the pillow away and he gasped and glugged at the air, and he came again so hard that his dick wrenched out of her hand and a shot of it hit him straight in the eye and stung like nothing he'd ever had in there, and he yelled with the pain, but the yell could have been anything, and as she grabbed at his dick, which was leaping around like a shower dropped in an empty bath, she scratched his back deeply with the nails of both hands and he shot three more times, in thick stripes on her chest. Like Zorro."
Gotta love that one – leaping around like a shower dropped in an empty bath”. Now there’s an image. How about a garden hose with the water turned on full blast? Or a fire hose? And love the Zorro reference - I’m picturing it in my mind.
Now this one is amazing:
Fan Tan by Marlon Brando and Donald Cammell (William Heinemann)
"In a moment Annie was on his side, Madame Lai was like a plant growing over him, and her little fist (holding the biggest black pearl) was up his asshole planting the pearl in the most appreciated place.
"Oh, Lord," he cried out. "I'm a-comin'!"
She could not answer. It is the one drawback of fellatio as conscientious as hers that it eliminates the chance for small talk and poetry alike. But nothing is exactly perfect in this life, and for Annie Doultry the delicate but firm pressure on his rear parts was in perfect harmony with the eruption of his cock. He came and he came - we are dealing with a hero here. At one point his lover backed away to inspect the unaltered gush of it, like a plumber saying to a customer, "Don't blame me. This water supply will stop when the dam's empty."
The bed creaked and its old springs twanged as he levered into action with his hungry stomach and his big slippery mouth. Annie was at work again. With a practiced flick of the wrist designed for heavier work, he eased the cheongsam's slit wider to expose the entire butterball thigh. Without perceptible movement, her legs were now definitely farther apart, and their musculature was unresistant and frothy, as if they were no longer bearing her weight. In a sense, she seemed to float upon the musty air like an arrangement of balloons. Evidently the dexterous licking of the inside of her left knee was contributing to her support, as it would soon to her downfall.
When it came, it was a float rather than a fall. Annie's left hand was completely occupied, each finger playing a separate tune upon the delicate complexities of her pussy, so it must have been the right one that slid under her ass and elevated her and floated her onto the bed - or more precisely, onto Annie, onto his broad stomach, the sturdy muscles beneath expressly relaxed to provide the comfort of a mattress of familiar Celtic flesh. An unintelligible muttering sound came from Yummee as she subsided on top of him. It could have been a prayer to one of her goddesses, or a threat. ..."
First of all I can’t even figure out how many people are in this scene, nor what they are doing. The “butterball thigh” completely threw me off, as did the plumber/customer analogy and the “frothy musculature". And yes, there is little opportunity for small talk (or poetry) during fellatio, gosh darn it.
Apparently there is still time to be considered for this year’s award…