How bad does a book have to be to win the Worst Sex in Fiction award? Pretty bad.Sex in the shower can be a bit awkward. But when your paramour is also your parent, as in David Guterson's "Ed King," a modern-day adaptation of "Oedipus"? Awkward, cringe-inducing, and just plain terrible to read. That's what makes it the winner of the 2011 Bad Sex in Fiction Award.
"Oedipus practically invented bad sex, so I'm not in the least bit surprised," Guterson said when he found out that he had won the 19th annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award, the dubious honor given out by a British literary magazine this week.
According to "Literary Review," the passage that won the judges hearts (and, possibly, required brain bleach) was this one:
... 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.
Jonathan Beckman, a senior editor at "Literary Review" one of the judges of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award, explained that "bad refers to the quality of the writing rather than the nature of the intercourse." Actual erotica isn't eligible for the award, he told "The Financial Times."
"Unsuccessful, unpleasurable or abortive sex does not qualify per se," he explained, "nor does kinky, brutal or unwanted sex, however unpalatable that may be." (Also, he said he never, ever expected that he'd have to judge this kind of contest.)
And the sex doesn't necessarily have to be explicit. In 2004, Tom Wolf (who wrote "Bonfire of the Vanities") won for this passage from "I Am Charlotte Simmons": "Moan moan moan moan moan went Hoyt as he slithered slithered slithered slithered and caress caress caress caress went the fingers."
Ummm. OK, then.
Mainstream writers like ancient-history expert Jean M. Auel (of "Clan of the Cave Bear" fame) and horror writer Stephen King (of, well, so many things) also made the short list:
- "On Canaan's Side" by Sebastian Barry
- "The Final Testament of the Holy Bible" by James Frey
- "Parallel Stories by Péter Nádas
- "11.22.63" by Stephen King
- "The Land of Painted Caves" by Jean M Auel
- "Dead Europe" by Christos Tsiolkas
- "Outside the Ordinary World" by Dori Ostermiller
- "Everything Beautiful Began After" by Simon Van Booy
This year's winner also beat out "1Q84" by Haruki Murakami, in which an ear is compared to certain lady parts, "The Affair" by Lee Child, which repeats "long and slow" way too often, and "The Great Night" by Chris Adrian," where something "impossibly stiff" and "impossibly eloquent" seems to have lost its sense of direction.
Where's that brain bleach?
Also on Shine:
Wisconsin professor wins 2011 bad writing contest
Snooki's better half: The ghostwriter behind "A Shore Thing"
Real-lfe "Sex in the City" divorce scandal