Friday, March 26, 2010

Bad literary sex...and not bad in a good way

I was once reading a racy romance novel (Yes, I had a romance novel phase. I am properly filled with shame over it so we needn't discuss it further) and just as the characters were going to fall passionately into bed, the author lapsed into a lengthy description of the apartment decor.  I would argue that it's difficult, nay, impossible to be in the throes of passion while simultaneously noting the delightful upholstery pattern on the curtains.  It completely ruined the moment.  And moment-ruining, my friends, is what makes for a bad literary sex scene.

Each year, The Guardian honors the worst of bad literary sex with the Bad Sex in Fiction Award.  The lucky winner in 2009 was Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones: A Novel.  A sample line: "I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg."  Ugh!  Can we all just agree--right here, right now--that there should be no talk of soft-boiled eggs during sex?  Here are excerpts from some of the other contenders in 2009, if you can stand it.  

One of my favorites is 2008's To Love, Honour and Betray, Till Divorce Us Do Part by Kathy Lette.  (see others from 2008 here.)  Writes Ms. Lette:   "His towel fell away. Sebastian's erect member was so big I mistook it for some sort of monument in the centre of a town. I almost started directing traffic around it."  Thankfully she did stop herself from directing traffic around Sebastian's "erect member" because I can't imagine that going over well even under the best of circumstances.  

Have you ever come across a literary mood-killer?  Well, send it on in.  We love that stuff around here.


gabbergirl said...

that's worse than bad, that's plain horrific... the visual will give me nightmare.

HSky said...

My beau in grad school wrote his thesis on sex scenes in novels--if only he'd known about these Guardian awards!

All I know is it's hard to write good sex (no pun intended) so hats off to these people for trying!

Tina said...

sex can be hot and to traffic signals and eggs--i think not.

can't wait to view the stories...will make for interesting ideas...i'm sure!

thanks Jill :)

Anonymous said...

I'm far more interested in reading scenes of passion, than about sex, and I love this scene written by a late 1800's writer, Kate Chopin in "A Respectable Woman".

(A Louisiana woman experiences conflicted feelings when her husband’s friend—“a lovable, inoffensive fellow”—comes to visit.)

Her mind only vaguely grasped what he was saying. Her physical being was for the moment predominant. She was not thinking of his words, only drinking in the tones of his voice.
She wanted to reach out her hand in the darkness and touch him with the sensitive tips of her fingers upon the face or the lips. She wanted to draw close to him and whisper against his cheek—she did not care what—as she might have done if she had not been a respectable woman.

The stronger the impulse grew to bring herself near him,the further, in fact, did she draw away from him. As soon as she could do so without an appearance of too great rudeness,
she rose and left him there alone.

[What she did next, we can only guess]