"Every fall, the Literary Review in Britain hands out its "Bad Sex in Fiction Award," a sniggering exercise that generates plenty of press, mostly because the nominees are selected from the ranks of highly praised novelists.
—Excerpt from book critic Laura Miller, on Salon.com
"Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and John Updike have been "winners" since the award was founded in the early 1990s, but more often than not the (non-)honor goes to the least-famous name among a list of the celebrated. (There appears to be some basis for the rumor that the prize is given to whomever is a good enough sport to show up for the ceremony.)
"This year, Rowan Somerville won it (for his novel "The Shape of Her") but the nominations of Jonathan Franzen and former Tony Blair spokesman Alastair Campbell are what garnered the most attention before the winner was announced last night at ... wait for it ... the In & Out Club in London.
"The Literary Review has admitted from the start that getting publicity for its journal is the motivation for the event. The Review's co-founder, the late Auberon Waugh, said that originally he wanted to single out the best sex scene from the year's crop of fiction but his fellow co-founder, Rachel Koenig, deemed this concept "too boring."
"Koenig also told the Independent that Waugh had become tired of the whole thing shortly before he died in 2001, and herself referred to the award as "a pretty old T-shirt."
"So why not give it up? Or better yet, go back to Waugh's original plan.
"It doesn't take much nerve to stand up in front of a boozy crowd and read sex passages from other people's books in a mocking tone of voice while everybody sneers and groans. No one raises an eyebrow if you talk about what doesn'tstrike you as erotic. Doing the opposite, however, amounts to admitting that you've found something arousing, and thereby risking the British equivalent of the ninth circle of hell: embarrassment.
"Their attitude is: 'Next time you think of writing about sex, don't,'" said Susie Bright, who was the editor of the Best American Erotica anthology series for 15 years. "I can't think of any other fundamental human experience that writers would be encouraged to keep to themselves."
"Melissa Katsoulis, a literary reviewer for the Times of London, certainly seemed to conform to Bright's impression when asked to comment on the award by the BBC: "Sex is a subject best avoided altogether," she said. "If I was writing a novel, I wouldn't attempt to write it except in the most Victorian and prim way, because it's awful. It's a cliché, but the moments of genuine frisson in books are when hardly anything happens."
"Speak for yourself, missy."
Story continued here...
Miller lists some of her favorite authors who write memorable sex scenes, all of whome I'd recommend as well. She's the one who turned me onto Horse Heaven! (Not what you think).
The commenters following the essay have a argument over whether writing about sex is as disgusting or as memorable as writing about "poop." There you have it, ladies and gentleman, the final argument for erotic literacy!
Photo: Still from the 1971 West End run of "No Sex Please, We're British"