Erri de Luca wins the Bad Sex in Fiction Award 2016 with his “plank stuck to her stomach”
Last night, beneath looming portraits of stiff-looking men (and one woman, Queen Victoria), a crowd of authors, writers, and literary types stood with a guilty swell of anticipation in the swanky halls of London’s aptly named In & Out Club. Yes, it was time for the readings of extracts from the nominated titles for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award, courtesy of the Literary Review. Much like bad sex itself – although you may struggle to define what makes a sex scene badly written – by God, you know it when you’re confronted with it, or at least, that’s what it felt like as Tom Williams and Lucy Beresford took to the stage to begin the readings.
Proceedings began with a reading of Ethan Canin’s A Doubter’s Almanac, which delighted the crowd with a saucy analogy to a “brisk tennis game or summer track meet”. Next, Canin’s thunder was soon stolen by an extract from Janet Ellis’s – yes, the old Blue Peter presenter – The Butcher’s Hook in which we heard that “an audacious swell” of “incongruous size” caused her protagonist to “spill like grain from a bucket”. However, all paled in comparison to what was to be the winning entry, acclaimed Italian author Erri de Luca’s The Day Before Happiness, in which the male protagonist’s “prick was a plank stuck to her stomach”. The action continues: “With a swerve of her hips, she turned me over and I was on top of her. She opened her legs, pulled up her dress and, holding my hips over her, pushed my prick against her opening. I was her plaything, which she moved around. Our sexes were ready, poised in expectation, barely touching each other: ballet dancers hovering en pointe.” The crowd groaned and laughed in equal measure, with the extract prompting one particularly despairing woman in the audience to mutter “let me be a lesbian”.
Like Morrissey last year, de Luca was unsurprisingly not present to receive his award, but it was presented nonetheless by Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter), who when asked afterwards said that the event was “clearly the highlight of [his] presenting career” and, although he had realised his suit was stained beforehand, knew that there could be no better event to wear it to that night. Well, quite.
The Bad Sex Awards have previously met with criticism for highlighting the negatives in authors’ works; however, as one writer for the Literary Review pointed out, the pillorying of what can largely be described as badly written, strange, male fantasy does an excellent job at calling out some of the sexist writing in literature. And of course, let’s not forget, it’s pretty damn funny.
The Bad Sex in Fiction Award 2016 took place last night at the In & Out Club, for further information visit here.