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November 25, 2011 11:33 AM   Subscribe

It's that time of year again... the contenders for the Literary Review Bad Sex Award have been announced.

Chris Adrian: The Great Night
Jean M Auel: The Land of Painted Caves
Sebastian Barry: On Canaan's Side
Lee Child: The Affair
James Frey: The Final Testament of The Holy Bible
David Guterson: Ed King
Stephen King: 11.22.63
Haruki Murakami: 1Q84
Peter Nádas: Parallel Stories
Dori Ostermiller: Outside the Ordinary World
Christos Tsiolkas: Dead Europe
Simon Van Booy: Everything Beautiful Began After
posted by fearfulsymmetry (44 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh and the picture editor was obviously enjoying himself here...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:34 AM on November 25, 2011


Damn... a bit, ahem, premature there...

Oh and the picture editor was obviously enjoying himself here...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:36 AM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Please tell me that these passages were deliberately written badly.
posted by 2manyusernames at 11:41 AM on November 25, 2011


Thus proving that being a successful author will not improve your sex life.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:55 AM on November 25, 2011


Damn, the voting's done already? But I haven't finished my NaNoWriMo!
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 11:59 AM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Uh, okay. The Christos Tsiolkas one is something else, that's for sure.
posted by Think_Long at 12:00 PM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I mean I like Stephen King's (deflowering?) scene. It made me giggle. I'll go hang my head in shame now...
posted by Phalene at 12:04 PM on November 25, 2011


I'll give Murakami a pass, we might be able to blame translation for that one.
The King one seems relatively harmless, I'm sure there's much worse sex writing out there.

The Tsiolkas one though. Well. I'd imagine he conveyed the intended mood, I just wish he hadn't.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:04 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I imagine the Tsiolkas one is the front-runner, not least because The Slap was the book for the chattering classes this year with near constant coverage in The Guardian/on Radio 4
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:07 PM on November 25, 2011


Um, what's James Frey's entry doing here? It's overlong and purple prose, but it's not horrible. It's poetry compared to Tsiolkas' zombie attack sex scene.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:08 PM on November 25, 2011


Need to unread that Tsiolkas. Need to wash eyes.
posted by Glinn at 12:27 PM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: they fucked in earnest, which seemed like the right thing to do.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:42 PM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Shouldn't this have been retitled the "Bad Similes and Metaphors about Sex Prize"?

Auel's entry is pretty much every Auel sex scene; heck, I think there are even worse examples in some of the earlier novels.

I may be getting jaded from years of reading terrible Victorian fiction, but the King entry did not strike me as significantly objectionable (or was it the "oh, sugar!" at the end?).
posted by thomas j wise at 12:53 PM on November 25, 2011


How surprised was I to open the link about bad sex writing and see the image used being Tsiolkas? Absolutely not at all.

Gawd The Slap was cringe worthy on average every five pages, and it's a long book so the moments of discomfort are large in number. Winner in worst moment in The Slap? The scene with a high school girl knowing a shampoo bottle in a biblical sense in the bath. Yeah, even George RR Martin has trouble being creepier than that. Not that he doesn't try.

If an author/book is so terrible that you come away with a distaste for a whole continent/nation you have a giant problem. Sorry Aussies, I'm sure you're lovely people, Tsiolkas is ruining it for all of you.
posted by Keith Talent at 12:54 PM on November 25, 2011


I'll give Murakami a pass, we might be able to blame translation for that one.

I dunno; I like Murakami, but I don't think he has ever written a good sex scene. Of course, that may be part of the point, but still....
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:01 PM on November 25, 2011


I haven't read 1Q84, but except for the awkwardness of 'uterus,' Murakami reads exactly like that in Japanese. He is at his least believable when writing anything relating to sex, or even to women generally.
posted by Jeanne at 1:07 PM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Admittedly, i'm a Chris Adrian fan, but it still seems a little unfair to include something so warpedly out of context. I mean, Great Night is, like, a magical realism retelling of Shakespeare set in San Francisco. Titania and Oberon are main characters and the participants in the scene in question are Titania and the wildly mad leader of a band of homeless folk. Of course it's going to be a weird sex scene.

I'm not sure if my description of the story helps my case at all, but I felt it needed to be said.
posted by redsparkler at 1:10 PM on November 25, 2011


and no I said no I will Not.
posted by chavenet at 1:20 PM on November 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


it still seems a little unfair to include something so warpedly out of context

That seems pretty much the raison d'etre of this competition.
posted by yoink at 1:28 PM on November 25, 2011


A link to the Literary Review itself might be in order
posted by Mercher at 2:20 PM on November 25, 2011


A link to the Literary Review itself might be in order

...although their site seems to only have details of last year's still, so screw 'em (ardently, and with starved ardour).
posted by Mercher at 2:23 PM on November 25, 2011


I laughed, I cried, I puked in my mouth a bit.

OK, a lot - mostly from that Tsiolkas excerpt. That shit's disgusting.
posted by mannequito at 2:34 PM on November 25, 2011


I'll be in my outhouse.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:37 PM on November 25, 2011


I'm surprised that Auel made the list; that wasn't half as bad as some of her earlier books.
posted by Forktine at 4:25 PM on November 25, 2011


Wow, the Tsiolkas was terrible. There doesn't even seem to be a close second. I cannot imagine who would like "the slush of her warm meat". Not that it gets better after that.
posted by jeather at 4:32 PM on November 25, 2011


It seems to me that Tsiolkas is deliberately portraying transgressive and unpleasant sex, and the reactions in this thread would indicate that he's done it well. You can write about sex for reasons other than erotic gratification of the reader. This is like giving American Psycho the Literary Bad Boyfriend award.
posted by wwwwwhatt at 4:50 PM on November 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


I cannot imagine who would like "the slush of her warm meat"

I can't imagine that we're meant to "like" it. Or, what wwwwwhatt said.
posted by yoink at 5:12 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I cannot imagine who would like "the slush of her warm meat".

Interestingly enough, that was Tim Powers' working title for The Stress of Her Regard.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:29 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Will anything here beat the Adventures of Spikenard?
posted by Navelgazer at 5:31 PM on November 25, 2011


Why is the Auel bad, it combines blunt, well regulated describitions, with little crudity and a kind of solid emotionalism.
posted by PinkMoose at 5:35 PM on November 25, 2011


Metafilter: smelt of farting and diarrhoea, shitting and pissing, burping, bile and vomit.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:06 PM on November 25, 2011


Is the "is there more" in the King literally referring to his cock? Cause if so that's pretty terrible.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:10 PM on November 25, 2011


The rest of the Tsiolkas works for unpleasant sex, but I still contend that "slush of warm meat" doesn't make any sort of sense. I haven't actually read the book, as I've not enjoyed other books of his, but I am curious about what sort of narrator that would make sense for. Not curious enough to actually read it, granted.
posted by jeather at 6:16 PM on November 25, 2011


So what is considered a well-written sex scene? I didn't read all the entires, but for the most part they didn't seem notably worse than any other sex scene I've ever read. I think a literary good sex award might be more interesting and/or enlightening.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 7:05 PM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


So what is considered a well-written sex scene

I nominate For Whom the Bell Tolls.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:13 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the Jean M. Auel excerpt:

"That was the taste he knew, the taste of Ayla that he loved."

Ayla?!
posted by dhens at 11:33 PM on November 25, 2011


> Ayla?!

Think Daryl Hannah, only before she evolved into an assassin but after she evolved from a mermaid.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:45 PM on November 25, 2011


2manyusernames: "Please tell me that these passages were deliberately written badly"

In the case of Lee Childs, I think his whole books are written tongue-in-cheek (they're airport literature about a US ex-military policeman who travels around the US doing unlikely stuff).
posted by Harald74 at 12:20 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nicholson Baker wrote a pornographic novel this year that was strange, outrageous, funny and quite erotic, which is sort of what Baker does. What he did better than that, was made the changes in sexuality that the internet has wrought (it is more availble, it is stranger, less is off limits, it is more democratic, it is less tender) and matched it with the formal nature of new pornography (the cute scene, the money shot outside of the body, the time shifts, the extreme close up), he took this matching, converted it from visual to textual, and then reminded us that no matter what technology does to sex; that it had a history--in this case 1001 nights, the pillow book, de sade and Rabelais.

Like Vox's reclaiming of Orality as a telephonic medium, he talks about the internet as a textual one. It is also really really really really really really filthy and wierd and fucked up and exquistely written.

Best sex I have read all year. (and kind of shocked, because of its formal qualities, its experimentation, its old fashioned queerness, and its excessive language, that it would be the kind of book that the old Mr Waugh and his children would hate)
posted by PinkMoose at 12:35 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Um, what's James Frey's entry doing here?

James Frey is an automatic frontrunner in any bad writing contest. Because his writing is bad. The writing of James Frey. It is bad. Very bad. His writing is bad.
posted by rusty at 8:30 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought this list was for authors who are supposed to specialize in dirty writing who do it hilariously unsexily. It's stupid to take an author like Murakami, who's gig is to write bizarre, surreal, weird stories and critique the sex scenes for not being properly sexy. It's like calling out a David Lynch film for being a bad romantic comedy.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 2:28 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Harald74: In the case of Lee Childs, I think his whole books are written tongue-in-cheek (they're airport literature about a US ex-military policeman who travels around the US doing unlikely stuff).
I read every Lee Childs novel as soon as I can get my greedy little hands on it, and I enjoy them a lot, but I agree that they are supposed to be a fun way to kill a few hours, rather than "serious literature". I think that's a deliberate choice on the author's part, and I expect that the inevitable movie franchise will haul in zillions of dollars. There was much more sex in the most recent book, "The Affair", than in earlier books, and I tend to skip those chapters. It's not that I'm a prude, and I don't object to Reacher having a sexual side to his personality, it's that I find that Childs does not write very compellingly about sex. It's not erotic, or interesting, it just wastes paper.
posted by wintermind at 5:13 PM on November 26, 2011


And the winner is ............
posted by adamvasco at 4:41 AM on December 7, 2011


... David Guterson's Ed King
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:18 PM on December 8, 2011


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