Bloomberg News

Bad Sex in Fiction Award Goes to Guterson, Sparing King, Frey

December 06, 2011

Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- David Guterson won the Bad Sex in Fiction Award, the U.K.’s “most dreaded literary prize,” for a torrid romp between a mother and her own son in “Ed King,” a recasting of the Oedipus myth.

Presented during a ceremony this evening at the Naval & Military Club on St. James’s Square, London, the prize was granted for a 12-hour sequence of what Guterson calls “gyrations and five-sense choreographies” -- including a morning shower during which she “abused him with a bar of soap.”

“Oedipus practically invented bad sex, so I’m not in the least bit surprised,” Guterson said in an e-mailed statement distributed by Britain’s Literary Review, which organizes the contest. The author, who lives in the U.S., was unable to attend the ceremony, the judges said.

Previously won by Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and Jonathan Littell, the Bad Sex in Fiction contest seeks to dishonor the author of the year’s “most embarrassing passages of sexual description in a literary novel.”

Guterson, who made his name with “Snow Falling on Cedars,” narrowly defeated competition from Haruki Murakami’s “1Q84,” Chris Adrian’s “The Great Night,” and Lee Child’s “The Affair,” the judges said.

Pornographic or expressly erotic works are excluded from the contest. Yet the Literary Review judges always find plenty to choose from.

Murakami became a finalist for likening a pair of upturned nipples to “a vine’s new tendrils seeking sunlight.” Child was cited for a passage that begins, “Then it was time. We started tenderly. Long and slow, long and slow.”

Stephen King

The shortlist also included James Frey for “The Final Testament of the Holy Bible” (“His breath felt hot and smelled sweet”) and Stephen King for “11/22/63” (“It was the sound of greedy discovery in her voice that put me over the edge”).

The other finalists were “On Canaan’s Side” by Sebastian Barry; “The Land of Painted Caves” by Jean M. Auel; “Dead Europe” by Christos Tsiolkas; “Everything Beautiful Began After” by Simon Van Booy; “Parallel Stories” by Peter Nadas; and “Outside the Ordinary World” by Dori Ostermiller.

The late Literary Review editor Auberon Waugh inaugurated the prize in 1993 to draw attention to the “crude, tasteless, and often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in contemporary novels, and to discourage it.”

--Editors: Mark Beech, Farah Nayeri.

To contact the reporters on the story: James Pressley in Brussels at; Hephzibah Anderson in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

Tim Cook's Reboot
blog comments powered by Disqus