The shortlist for the dreaded Bad Sex in Fiction award has been revealed, with the late American folk singer Woody Guthrie’s posthumously published novel House of Earth leading the nominees.
Among the offending phrases was: “Her body melted into a single note of music to the sky.”
Manil Suri’s The City of Devi, Eric Reinhardt’s The Victoria System and Matthew Reynolds’ The World Was All Before Them are also up for the dubious accolade.
Reynolds describes “surfing the waves of neuromuscular euphoria” as “brain cells and swirl and jive”, while Reinhardt’s hero waits “tensed, tortured, for Victoria’s palms to start descending once again towards the elastic of [his] underwear”.
More excerpts are being shared by the Literary Review on their Twitter feed, using the #badsex hashtag.
Susan Choi, Jonathan Grimwood and Rupert Thomson have also made the shortlist.
The latter’s book, titled Secrecy, includes the memorable line: “I kissed the soft bristles in the hollow of her armpit.”
One notable exclusion is Helen Fielding’s Mad About The Boy, in which 90s heroine Bridget Jones finds herself man-less again.
The decision to brush over Bridget’s amorous encounter with an ex-army officer was not taken lightly, but, “‘Oh, oh,’ I gasped. ‘Did they teach you this in the SAS?'” was not deemed cringeworthy enough to make the cut.
Canadian author Nancy Huston took home last year’s award for Infrared. Sebastian Faulks, Norman Mailer and Giles Coren are all previous winners.
The aim of the Literary Review prize, which honours the “most egregious passage of sexual description” in a book published this year, is to discourage perfunctory references to sex.
However, pornographic or expressly erotic titles such as EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey are not allowed in the competition.