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« Free Reads -- Velvet Crypt | Main | 10-Best Lists »

December 16, 2002

Free Reads -- Wendy Perriam on erotic books

Friedrich --

Have you ever run across the Bad Sex Award? It's a competition (for the worst passage about sex in a new novel) run by the British magazine the Literary Review, and it's apparently done very (or at least semi) straight-faced. There are judges, nominees, a final award dinner, and lots of press coverage.

I sometimes wonder how I'd react if I were given such an award. Would I have enough toughness, bemusement and irony to triumph over the humiliation? I doubt it. I'd pout, my lip would start to tremble, I'd be fighting tears. I'd be a perfectly lousy sport, I'm afraid.

In any case, this year's winner, Wendy Perriam (nominated three years running and finally making off with the prize) seems to be handling the honor nicely. She's written a short column for the Guardian where she recommends ten books about sex. It's readable here.

Sample passage (about "Portnoy's Complaint"):

The irrepressible sexuality of the theme is echoed in the exuberantly potent language, which seems to surge up and spill over on the page. And Portnoy's raging sexual desire is paralleled by the rage he feels towards his Jewish mother and the whole of Jewish culture. Roth has been called 'the historian of modern eroticism.' He's also hysterically funny.

Link thanks to the blog Daze Reader (here), the best source I've found online for news about sex.



posted by Michael at December 16, 2002


How does the Literary Review define the field of competition? Are bodice-ripper romance novels eligible? How about self-published work? If I got such an award in competition in the field of "literary" fiction it would seem a bit embarassing, but if I got the prize in competition with all the supermarket novels in the world, I would feel pretty good about myself. And, of course, it raises the issue of standards: are we discussing a "good" discussion of "bad sex" or a "bad" discussion of "good sex" or like what? I have occasionally wondered about creating a "mail merge" story in which the adjectives, pronouns and other elements can be changed in one go. It would seem to have possibilities for this sort of prize.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on December 17, 2002 1:27 PM

"A mail-merge novel"? That's brilliant -- worthy of Queneau.

Did I spell that right? Years ago, I was sure when I had Queneau spelled right. These days...

Hmm, how does a writer qualify to be considered for the Bad Sex prize? Perhaps we should find out, and then do our best to set out to win the prize?

I've always felt halfway amused, halfway annoyed by the existence of the prize. On the one hand, it's inspired -- hard to resist having a little fun with bad writing about sex. On the other hand, the Brits aren't exactly generous towards the body or the spirit, and I do like it that writers are forever trying to come to terms with sex ... So why not give out a "Good for you!" sex-writing prize? Or a "Nice try" sex-writing prize?

I'd like to encourage more, not less, writing about sex myself.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 17, 2002 4:54 PM

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