It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Yuletide – I am, of course, referring to the Literary Review’s prestigious Bad Sex In Fiction awards, a celebration of some of the worst examples of copulation ever written down. Or imagined, for that matter. This year, US author James Frey took the prize for Katerina, a “fictional retelling” of a love affair the author had in Paris. You may or may not remember Frey as the man who was forced to apologise to Oprah, when it transpired that large parts of his memoir, A Million Little Pieces, had been grossly exaggerated. Thank goodness, then, that Frey discovered the phrase “fictional retelling”. Fool Oprah once, shame on you. Fool her twice and, well, one can only imagine.
Set in the heady days of the 1990s, Frey’s story centres around a young, aspiring writer called Jay, who essentially goes on a bender in Paris, sharing multiple encounters (and orgasms, apparently) with a Norwegian model named Katerina. According to The Guardian, judges had a hard time deciding on which extract should take the prize, stating that they “had been swayed by several sex scenes in the novel, which include encounters in a car park and in the back of a taxi…” They eventually settled on a scene in a bathroom, which includes no less than eight references to ejaculation.
The winning passage reads as follows: “Blinding breathless shaking overwhelming exploding white God I cum inside her my cock throbbing we’re both moaning eyes hearts souls bodies one,” Frey writes. “One. White. God. Cum. Cum. Cum. I close my eyes let out my breath. Cum. I lean against her both breathing hard I’m still inside her smiling. She takes my hands lifts them and places them around her body, she puts her arms around me, we stay still and breathe, hard inside her, tight and warm and wet around me, we breathe. She gently pushes me away, we look into each other’s eyes, she smiles.”
In case you didn’t quite get that, that was: “cum”.
Naturally, Frey was “deeply honoured and humbled” to receive the award. “Kudos to all my distinguished fellow finalists,” he said. “You have provided me with many hours of enjoyable reading over the last year.” There should, however, be a shout-out to Frey’s fellow nominees, including Haruki Murakami for Killing Commendatore: “I slipped my erect penis inside. Or, from another angle, that part of her actively swallowed my penis, immersing it in what felt like warm butter”. Oooh yeah, warm butter. Who doesn’t want to be immersed in warm butter? Then there was Gerard Woodward, nominated for his novel The Paper Lovers: “Beneath them her wetness met his own wetness, and they stirred against each other, she pestled him slowly, until miraculously he found himself rigid again, as though he had risen out of his own pain, fresh and ready.”
Surely, the major contender for the prize had to be Scoundrels by Major Victor Cornwall and Major Arthur St John Trevelyan, which includes some, er, creative references to the vagina: “Her vaginal ratchet moved in concertina-like waves, slowly chugging my organ as a boa constrictor swallows its prey. Soon I was locked in, balls deep, ready to be ground down by the enamelled pepper mill within her.” Ah yes, it’s all too easy to confuse one’s genitals with a condiment. Or, indeed, a killer reptile.
Only three women have been awarded the prize in its 25-year history, a fact the Literary Review refuses to acknowledge as evidence that men write terrible sex. Frank Brinkley of the Literary Review told The Guardian: “There has been some great bad sex from women in the past, but this year men are the prime offenders. There were a couple of women on the nominal longlist, which we don’t publish, but we decided they weren’t bad enough.” Well, what’s worse than a boa-constrictor vagina and a chugging organ? Not a lot.