Booker winner gets the nod for ‘Bad Sex in Fiction’ award

Booker winner Richard Flanagan. Picture: PA

The winner of the Man Booker Prize is nominated for a dubious honour in the literary world — the Bad Sex in Fiction Awards.

The shortlist for the prize, created by Literary Review, features 10 works including Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark’s novel The Legacy Of Elizabeth Pringle and Booker victor Richard Flanagan with The Narrow Road To The Deep North.

Organisers say the idea is to draw attention to “poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them”.

Also up for the prize — to be awarded on December 3 — are previous winner Ben Okri and esteemed writer Haruki Murakami.

Flanagan’s offending passage has the characters’ “circumnavigation of each other” rudely interrupted by the howling of a drooling dog carrying a half dead fairy penguin in its mouth.

“Whatever had held them apart, whatever had restrained their bodies before, was now gone,” Flanagan writes. “If the earth spun it faltered, if the wind blew it waited. Hands found flesh; flesh, flesh. He felt the improbable weight of her eyelash with his own; he kissed the slight, rose-coloured trench that remained from her knicker elastic, running around her belly like the equator line circling the world. As they lost themselves in the circumnavigation of each other, there came from nearby shrill shrieks that ended in a deeper howl.”

Announcing the shortlist, the magazine said: “The judges also considered Andrew Marr’s Head Of State, which started arrestingly — “they bucked like deer and squirmed like eels. And after that, vice-versa” — but failed to sustain its early promise.”

Pulitzer prize-winning author Michael Cunningham makes the shortlist for his description of male climax and its abrupt conclusion in The Snow Queen. “He lives for seconds in that soaring agonising perfection. It’s this, only this, he’s lost to himself, he’s no one, he’s obliterated, there’s no Tyler at all, there’s only… He hears himself gasp in wonder. He falls into an ecstatic burning harmedness, losing, lost, unmade. And is finished.”

Veteran novelist Wilbur Smith is nominated for his novel Desert God, in which a woman’s knee-length glowing hair is described as a “rippling curtain” through which her breasts “thrust their way through it like living creatures”. “They were perfect rounds, white as mare’s milk and tipped with ruby nipples.”

The current holder of the award is Manil Suri for The City of Devi.


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