And The 2012 Bad Sex Award Winner Is...

Infrared: 2012 Bad Sex Award Winner

Every year, Literary Review in England selects the worst descriptions of sex in books, and this year they've picked Nancy Huston, a Canadian-born, prestigious award-winning author whose not-so-titillating prose moved the judges to their decision. She beat out previous Bad Sex winner Tom Wolfe and Man Booker-nominated writer Nicola Barker, who wrote this:

She smells of almonds, like a plump Bakewell pudding; and he is the spoon, the whipped cream, the helpless dollop of warm custard.

The winning passages can be found in Huston's fourteenth novel, Infrared, about a woman who enjoys photographing her lovers during copulation. She describes flesh as "that archaic kingdom that brings forth tears and terrors, nightmares, babies and bedazzlements." The Guardian has a longer excerpt available for your reading pleasure. I particularly like this paragraph:

...never will I tire of that silvery fluidity, my sex swimming in joy like a fish in water, my self freed of both self and other, the quivering sensation, the carnal pink palpitation that detaches you from all colour and all flesh, making you see only stars, constellations, milky ways, propelling you bodiless and soulless into undulating space where the undulating skies make your non-body undulate...

Bad sex notwithstanding, the book has received some solid reviews, and the premise sounds interesting. According to The Huffington Post, Independent critic Shirley Whiteside even praised the sex scenes for containing "none of the lazy cliches of pornography or the purple prose of modern romantic fiction," though she did identify the prose as less erotic, more perfunctory.

Ms. Huston was not present to receive her award, though her publicist was there to read a statement, in which the author hoped her novel would "incite thousands of British women to take close-up photos of their lovers' bodies in all states of array and disarray."

So what does everyone else think? Are Huston's sexual descriptions worthy of the prize? What are some of the best worst you've read this year (other than Fifty Shades, please)?

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Alan Dubinsky's picture
Alan Dubinsky from Portland is reading A Very Minor Prophet December 5, 2012 - 12:54pm

But were they Steve Almonds?

rmatthewsimmons's picture
rmatthewsimmons from Salt Lake City, UT is reading I just put down 'A Game of Thrones' after 6 chapters....Couldn't do it. December 5, 2012 - 12:55pm

I really need to make an effort to incorporate 'dollop' into my every day vocabulary. This is awesome.


Gretel (The Children Of The Sun) Book One

Christopher Provost's picture
Christopher Provost from Nashua, New Hampshire is reading The Zombie Survival Guide December 5, 2012 - 1:10pm

Nicola Barker should have won.  Hands down, her "almonds" sentence is the worst description of sex I've ever had the displeasure to read.

Stephen TheBoyWonder Williams's picture
Stephen TheBoyW... from The middle of the Mojave Desert is reading The Goodlife by Keith Scribner December 5, 2012 - 4:59pm

I love this award. It actually makes me want to read the winners which is more than I can say for most other literary prizes.

Jov Ati Ram's picture
Jov Ati Ram from Manila, Philippines is reading Greek Drama December 6, 2012 - 3:03am

I'd have to agree: Huston's sex scene was perfunctory while pretending to be philosophical on sex. If she were talking about violent get-go sex, it wasn't apparent. It was rapid escalation, but not of the violent form, which I might have appreciated however jarring it would be. The philosophizing was also bad and evokes LSD trips on low-purity LSD, if only because of its disconnect with the sex scene at hand. 

Zen Pro's picture
Zen Pro December 6, 2012 - 7:11am

Smells are tricky - here's one of my efforts: 

Then, moving beyond her appearance, he would recall that just-showered smell – her freshness, her dampness, her moistness – usually aided by the various soaps and shampoos and body-lotions still haunting the bathroom. He would, of course, like to be able to remember her smell: the smell between her legs before they made love in the morning, while she was still sleepy. He remembered how much he’d savored it at the time; how he’d once teased her it reminded him of something between wild-sage and a puppy not yet weaned from its mother’s milk. It was an impossible smell to pin down but he would have died happy with his nose buried in it. The truth was he had never been able to re-conjure the smell in his mind. Instead, in between missions, he’d taken to hanging out in the pet store down by the quay, leaving the apartment to be impregnated by large bowls of the fuming herb.