Saturday, November 22, 2008

The most wonderful time of the year II

Readers of this blog know that in spite of my lack of religious belief, my ingrained cynicism and general misanthropy, I actually enjoy the holiday season. I love getting together with friends and family to celebrate the festivities. I love those annual occasions that help mark the seasons and the passages of our lives...

Thanksgiving dinners...Christmas trees...the Bad Sex in Literary Fiction awards...

Oh, where to start with the cornucopia that is bad writing about sex in serious literature? I missed the 2007 contest, but here is a selection from 2006.

So what are the criteria for choosing the worst sex in serious literature?
Jonathan Beckman at the Literary Review said there had been "quite a lot of variation" in this year's shortlist in terms of how, exactly, the sex was bad. "There are some which take the sex far too seriously, like Coelho, and some which have a grating change of register, like Buchan, and others that are just slightly ridiculous," he said. "The Campbell seems quite Alastair Campbelly-bad, in the slightly tortuous logical path the passage takes … and also, we wouldn't pass up the chance to put Alastair Campbell on a bad sex shortlist."
I tend to root for the far too serious. Here's Paulo Coelho's nominated contribution:
in which the act of sex – on a public footpath – is described as "the moment when Eve was reabsorbed into Adam's body and the two halves became Creation".

"At last, she could no longer control the world around her," Coelho continues, "her five senses seemed to break free and she wasn't strong enough to hold on to them. As if struck by a sacred bolt of lightning, she unleashed them, and the world, the seagulls, the taste of salt, the hard earth, the smell of the sea, the clouds, all disappeared, and in their place appeared a vast gold light, which grew and grew until it touched the most distant star in the galaxy."
Yeah, it was good for me too.

Oh, and since I missed last year's awards, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the winner:
Last year's award was given posthumously to Norman Mailer for his final novel The Castle in the Forest, in which a male member is described as being "as soft as a coil of excrement". "It was the excrement that tipped the balance," admitted Philip Womack, assistant editor of the Literary Review, at the time.

(H/T to Judi Fennell)

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