When Is Book Sex Awful?

The Literary Review has announced the nominees for their annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award. According to the Telegraph, offending writers include Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, and Jean Auel, who are included in those being singled out for describing sex very, very poorly.

Some of these selections aren’t a big surprise. King’s style of prose isn’t something that I’d ever to bring into the bedroom, and at least one review I read of Murakami’s 1Q84 — pronounced “q-teen eighty-four”, if I remember correctly — noted the author’s problems with sex scenes.

One person I was surprised to see on the list was Chris Adrian. I haven’t read his latest but Paul Constant — the Stranger‘s rock-solid book critic — gave Adrian’s The Great Night a glowing review in large part because of how he treated sexuality:

But the most heartening thing about The Great Night is that Adrian focuses on one of the happiest ways humans do battle with death every day—which is a polite way of saying that the book is full of fucking. It practically pulses with it: Gay sex, straight sex, oral sex, mind-blowing first-encounter sex that literally changes lives. This blatant sexuality reminds the reader what a fuckless place modern literary fiction has become; if not for the occasional dysfunctional masturbation scene, the main characters of many literary novels may as well be smooth-crotched plastic dolls.

Literary fiction being “a fuckless place” is largely true, and Constant makes a great case for The Great Night to be antidote to that. Still, when fiction fucks up fucking scenes, it’s the worst. The bad novel has few torments available that could rival that of a bad sex scene.

Author: James Brotheridge

Contributing Editor with Prairie Dog.