Every year, the editors of Literary Review do God (or somebody’s) work, wading into the world of ill-conceived novelistic fornication to bring back the annual nominees of their Bad Sex In Fiction Award. Last year, musician and first-time novelist Morrissey took home the coveted prize, a win that might have been tainted with the appearance of celebrity favoritism, if not for the presence of obviously worthy phrases like “bulbous salutation” and “otherwise central zone” in his rambling coital ode.
This year’s nominees don’t have that same celebrity punch—high-profile novelist Jonathan Safran Foer having just barely dodged inclusion with a passage that compares masturbation to climbing Everest in his recent Here I Am—but what they lack in fame, they make up for in fumblingly enthusiastic narrations of basic human physiology. Take Ethan Canin’s A Doubter’s Almanac, for instance, which not only injects the imagery of ”a child pulling candles from the rim of a birthday cake” into some perfectly normal sex, but also describes one of the character’s eyes as “gyroscopically inert.” Or The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler, which follows a moment of profundity with this inviting come-hither: “Then he felt Anezka slide down before him to the floor, felt her hands grab his naked buttocks and draw him to her. ‘Come, sonny boy!’ he heard her whisper, and with a smile he let go.”
Our favorite, though, has to be from former British children’s show host Janet Ellis, whose The Butcher’s Hook ends a basic bucolic fuck encounter with a moment that feels damn near intentional in its hilarity:
‘Anne,’ he says, stopping and looking down at me. I am pinned like wet washing with his peg. ‘Till now, I thought the sweetest sound I could ever hear was cows chewing grass. But this is better.’ He sways and we listen to the soft suck at the exact place we meet. Then I move and put all thoughts of livestock out of his head.
You can read excerpts from all of this year’s softly sucking nominees over at The Cut. Meanwhile, Literary Review notes that it also received several nominations for Donald Trump’s “locker-room talk,” but was forced to disqualify them on the grounds that “the award only covers fiction.”