Paulo Coelho, John Updike, and Isabel Fonseca are on the shortlist for the one award no writer really wants to receive: the Literary Review‘s Bad Sex Award. The award “ a plaster foot “ was created by Auberon Waugh “with the aim of gently dissuading authors and publishers from including unconvincing, perfunctory, embarrassing or redundant passages of a sexual nature in otherwise sound literary novels.”
This year’s crop runs the gamut from weeping orifices and blue veins to sex between wolves.
Perhaps the most egregious overwriting comes from Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, whose novel Brida includes a scene in which a couple experiences “the moment when Eve was reabsorbed into Adam’s body and the two halves became Creation.”
The Guardian quotes the offending passage, which continues:
At last, she could no longer control the world around her … her five senses seemed to break free and she wasn’t strong enough to hold on to them. As if struck by a sacred bolt of lightning, she unleashed them, and the world, the seagulls, the taste of salt, the hard earth, the smell of the sea, the clouds, all disappeared, and in their place appeared a vast gold light, which grew and grew until it touched the most distant star in the galaxy.
Ann Allestree, who is nominated for her novel Triptych of a Young Wolf, says that her book “is essentially a serious one,” and that the sex is there because of her belief that “every novel’s got to have sex in it.” In this case, sex that is interrupted by the smell of soup:
He raised himself to his knees and bent to roll his tongue around her weeping orifice. He was bringing her to a pitch of ecstasy when she heard Madame Veuve, on the landing, put down the supper tray. Whiffs of onion soup strayed over them as he engulfed her. “Don’t stop,” she clamoured; she was nearly there, it was in the bag.
Allestree will have to wait until tomorrow to discover whether that description is enough to ensure that she has the plaster foot “in the bag.” The complete shortlist:
Ann Allestree, Triptych of a Young Wolf
Russell Banks, The Reserve
James Buchan, The Gate of Air
Alastair Campbell, All in the Mind
Paulo Coelho, Brida
Isabel Fonseca, Attachment
Rachel Johnson, Shire Hell
Kathy Lette, To Love, Honour and Betray
Simon Montefiore, Sashenka
John Updike, The Widows of Eastwick