Rewards of Bad Sex


André Martins de Barros

I can’t promise this post will be as enticing as its title, or as compelling as the picture above. It’s about sex, all right. Bad sex for sure, but meant literary rather than literally.

Presented by the Literary Review every year since 1993, the the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award is bestowed upon authors who have written overly flowery or otherwise ridiculous sex scenes.

Per Wikipedia article, it is awarded “… to the author who produces the worst description of a sex scene in a novel. …The award itself is in the form of a “semi-abstract trophy representing sex in the 1950s”,  which depicts a naked woman draped over an open book. The given rationale is “to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.”

Curiously, after an exhausting search, I couldn’t find a single image of the trophy. Odd, no? I suspect the “semi-abstract trophy representing sex in the 1950s” looks appropriately crude and tasteless to be deemed inappropriate for family-friendly internet sites.

Manil Suri was declared the winner of the 21st BSFA for The City of Devi (Bloomsbury).  Joan Collins presented the prize  at a ceremony in London on December 3rd.

The novel is set in Bombay. The city is in dire peril — under  the threat of being nuked any minute now. Sarita, her husband Karun and a young gay Muslim named Jaz are involved in a threesome. Here is the climax of a lengthy sex escapade of cosmic proportions:

“Surely supernovas explode that instant, somewhere, in some galaxy. The hut vanishes, and with it the sea and the sands – only Karun’s body, locked with mine, remains. We streak like superheroes past suns and solar systems, we dive through shoals of quarks and atomic nuclei. In celebration of our breakthrough fourth star, statisticians the world over rejoice.”

The City of Devi is Suri’s third work. He has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Thus he is a good writer, writing sex badly, for which he was properly rewarded. Dr. Suri is a professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland. Any wonder his winning sex scene involves more than two participants? Perhaps a mathematician in him loves complex configurations and big numbers, such as number 3. Statisticians the world over rejoice.

Dr. Suri’s publisher, Bloomsbury, said: “In accepting this award we challenge everyone to make up their own mind about Manil Suri’s The City of Devi. As Tolstoy said in Anna Karenina, ‘There are as many kinds of love as there are hearts’.”

Indeed, if this ain’t the truth, what is?

The City of Devi won over Susan Choi’s My Education:

“I seemed to come right away, with a hard, popping effervescence, as if her mouth had raised blisters, or an uppermost froth; but beneath, magma still heaved and groaned and was yearning to fling itself into the air”

Woody Guthrie’s House of Earth:

“And as she sucked the last drops of his blood and his seed into the folds of her innermost soul and self, she felt her whole body lift, pull, squeeze, then lift again, tremble, shake, and quiver, and in her fires of her stomach she strained and moved to bathe his blood into the rumble and the thunder of her own”); and Eric Reinhardt’s The Victoria System (“The zip of her skirt sputtered between her fingernails like a motorboat on a waveless sea … My erection beat time in my underwear.” 

Eight passages of raunchy prose were in contention.  See excerpts in the Telegraph if you are in the mood for some more bad


3 comments on “Rewards of Bad Sex

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