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When bad sex is good

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Warning: This piece features some fairly rude book excerpts

It seems the world of raunchy, dubiously written romance novels extends beyond 50 Shades of Grey. In fact, the expanse of awkwardly articulated sex scenes is so broad that there is a dedicated award for it. The Literary Review’s 21st annual “Bad Sex in Fiction” award is bestowed upon “The most embarrassing passage of sexual description” from a novel published this year.

The award, which is announced on the 3rd of December this year, is a debatable accolade, designed not to reward authors but rather to discourage redundant and crudely written references to sexuality.  Unfortunately, the contenders exclude pornographic or erotic titles like Fifty Shades of Grey, preferring to find egregious passages in otherwise tolerable novels.

Last year’s winner was Infrared by Nancy Houston, which brought it home with phrases like:

“Never will I tire of that silvery fluidity, my sex swimming in joy like a fish in water…the quivering sensation, the carnal pink palpitation that detaches you from all colour and all flesh, making you see only stars, constellations, milky ways.”

2010’s top honour went to Rowan Somerville for his decidedly whacky passage in The Shape of Her:

“Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.”

No one is safe when it comes to choosing the shortlist, which has previously included distinguished authors such as Tom Wolfe and Sebastian Faulks. This year, Woody Guthrie has made the cut from beyond the grave for his posthumously published novel House of Earth.

We eagerly await the verdict and do not envy the judges. With the wealth of dodgy sexual metaphors, they have a tough decision ahead of them.

Check out the shortlist below:

My Education by Susan Choi

“Weeping we knotted our bodies together, caressing and hushing each other, until we both must have slept, to awake it seemed many hours later, and gaze at each other in mute wonderment.”

The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood

“In my mouth her nipple turned from strawberry to deep raspberry but the taste I wanted was missing.”

House of Earth by Woody Guthrie

“Her body melted into a single note of music to the sky.”

Motherland by William Nicholson

Too raunchy to publish!

The Victoria System by Eric Reinhardt

“Tensed, tortured, for Victoria’s palms to start descending once again towards the elastic of [his] underwear”.

The World Was All Before Them by Matthew Reynolds

“Surfing the waves of neuromuscular euphoria…brain cells swirl and jive.”

The City of Devi by Manil Suri

“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.”

 Secrecy by Rupert Thomson

“I kissed the soft bristles in the hollow of her armpit.”