Each December, the writers of London gather to bestow the Bad Sex In Fiction Award on an unlucky author. Judged by journalists at the Literary Review magazine, the prize recognises the most “outstandingly awful scene of sexual description” in a recently published book.
Sadly this year the award has been cancelled. “We decided to give novelists a further year’s reprieve, drawing a line under work produced during the pandemic,” the panel of judges told us. “No such allowances will be made in 2023, when the award will go ahead as usual.”
The judges didn’t lack material this year. They told us they would most likely have given the Bad Sex Award to Suleika Dawson for The Secret Heart, her “creatively egregious” memoir of an affair with the writer John Le Carré.
In the book, she describes her first liaison with the spy-turned-author as “sex only the hero and heroine can have; sex for the cameras, sex for the gods”. She also writes that Le Carré “drove himself into me like a ploughshare”. At Bad Sex Award ceremonies, held at the suggestively named In & Out Club in St James, guests take the stage to read from the nominated entries. Queasiness, perhaps, part explains the decision to cancel.
Alan Moore, the graphic novelist, was pencilled in as runner-up for his first book of short stories, Illuminations. It was flagged by judges for lines such as “they fucked enthusiastically while smouldering angel carcasses dropped screaming onto Bedford all around them”.
Novels usually win, but memoirs have drawn the attention of the judges in the past. In 2010, Tony Blair’s memoir A Journey was nominated for the following passages (sensitive readers should look away now): “That night she cradled me in her arms and soothed me; told me what I needed to be told; strengthened me. On that night of 12 May 1994, I needed that love Cherie gave me, selfishly. I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following my instinct.”
Other famous nominees include Richard E. Grant, who wrote in his 1998 novel By Design: “She sucks my tongue so hard it is difficult to form a syllable, besides which my bloodrush south is so ferocious that I really have little choice other than to succumb completely, vaguely conscious that should she guide my now throbbing Titanic into her icebergs, I would definitely be sunk.”
Morrissey won the prize in 2015 for his debut novel List of the Lost. In the book he describes a “giggling snowball of full-figured copulation”. The offending passage, or rather sentence, runs: “At this, Eliza and Ezra rolled together into one giggling snowball of full-figured copulation, screaming and shouting as they playfully bit and pulled at each other in a dangerous and clamorous rollercoaster coil of sexually violent rotation with Eliza’s breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra’s howling mouth and the pained frenzy of his bulbous salutation extenuating his excitement as it whacked and smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone.”
The Bad Sex Award was established by Literary Review in 1994. It was primarily the invention of Auberon Waugh, long time editor of the magazine and soon garnered national and international press coverage. Waugh feared authors were intentionally hamming up their erotic passages in order to win the prize and reap the benefits of extra publicity. He even offered a guide to sex writing. Rule one was: “Avoid biological descriptions - “then he pushed his c**k into me” just doesn’t work when you read it.”
Billie Eilish vows to ‘get ripped’
It’s time to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions. Quit drinking? Stay away from chocolate? Not for popstar Billie Eilish. “I would like to maybe skydive, maybe do a big bungee jump off a cliff,” she says. “I wanna get an electric car. I wanna rescue some horses.” At least one of them is relatable: “I just wanna get really buff. Hopefully by next year I will be ripped.”
What would Churchill do?
Rishi Sunak’s government is facing possible electoral wipeout. So what would Winston Churchill do to turn things around? At the launch of Cheers, Mr Churchill!, Andrew Liddle’s new book about the bulldog, we asked his grandson Lord Soames. “I’d have to bloody think about that,” he said, looking perplexed. But thinking didn’t seem to do any good. “I’ve no idea,” he conceded. Crikey!
Poor job prospects for ex-MPs
Former Lib Dem leader Vince Cable has bad news for Matt Hancock, who says he’s leaving Parliament. “There’s nothing quite as ex as an ex-MP,” Cable told The Rundown podcast. He speaks from bitter experience: “As I discovered, you have to work to get interesting assignments because people write you off.” Best of luck, Matt.
We’ll drink to that, Fred
Londoner’s Diary 9th December
First Dates host Fred Sirieix celebrated his G’Vine Cocktail Café in Soho last night. Down the road, Matthew Modine, Jude Owusu, Gwendoline Christie and Tracy-Ann Oberman all enjoyed the after party for the new cast of To Kill A Mockingbird at The Gielgud Theatre.
Eddie Redmayne read from a nativity at a carol service in Chelsea for the Institute of Cancer Research. “It’s a treat to be here, getting in the spirit, and for a wonderful cause also,” he said.