'shimmying past her heart, he felt her perfection' - Bad Sex Writing Award 2019

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It's that time of the year again! Full quotes here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/nov/27/mouthful-by-mouthful-the-2019-bad-sex-award-in-quotes

Poll Results

OptionVotes
Pax by John Harvey 7
The Office of Gardens and Ponds by Didier Decoin 5
The River Capture by Mary Costello 3
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert 2
The Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith 0


Le Bateau Ivre, Thursday, 28 November 2019 10:22 (two weeks ago) link

The River Capture by Mary Costello

He clung to her, crying, and then made love to her and went far inside her and she begged him to go deeper and, no longer afraid of injuring her, he went deep in mind and body, among crowded organ cavities, past the contours of her lungs and liver, and, shimmying past her heart, he felt her perfection.

The Office of Gardens and Ponds by Didier Decoin

The earthy taste surprised her. When he was alive, when it swelled inside Miyuki’s mouth, Katsuro’s penis had tasted of raw fish, of warm young bamboo shoots, and of fresh almonds when she finally released its juices. Now it was insipid and muddy to her tongue, like the pools of the temples of Heian Kyō when the Office of Gardens and Ponds had them drained for cleaning.
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Miyuki had loved this man. Not that he was a very good lover – but what did she know, after all, since she had experienced no one but him? He used to upset her by the way he silently loomed up behind her and took her by the shoulders, his nails scratching her flesh, his strong breath enveloping her neck, a smell of ripe fruit and poorly tanned leather, his knee pushing against her lower back to open her tunic and expose a portion of naked flesh against which he would then rub his organ as if he were furtively making omelette rolls. He did not derive his pleasure without her, but in front of her, and differently.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

There was a sensation occurring here that I didn’t even know could occur. I took the sharpest inhale of my life, and I’m not sure I let my breath out for another 10 minutes. I do feel that I lost the ability to see and hear for a while, and that something might have short-circuited in my brain – something that has probably never been fully fixed since. My whole being was astonished. I could hear myself making noises like an animal, and my legs were shaking uncontrollably (not that I was trying to control them), and my hands were gripping down so hard over my face that I left fingernail divots in my own skull.

Then it became more.

And after that, it became even more still.

Then I screamed as though I were being run over by a train, and that long arm of his was reaching up again to palm my mouth, and I bit into his hand the way a wounded soldier bites on a bullet.

And then it was the most, and I more or less died.

Pax by John Harvey

She gave a yet deeper, moaning sigh. Like breathing in he saw the word he had said shiver and expand inside her. Her arms moved now, and flexed: out of here, Venus de Milo. He watched the death-life fill her growingly. She grabbed and caressed him with more muscle, more zest, than ever before. Her long lean arms were spider arms, while her kisses roved and dug.

‘I see it,’ he said. ‘You are the female praying mantis, devouring her mate.’

‘I am. You are. I shall eat every shred of you.’

‘Mouthful by mouthful.’

‘Exactly. Ah. But boy, you taste good.’ She licked her lips, and pulled him close, but now he was clasping too. It was a kind of slow wrestling, they were knitting each other into a loose slipping knot. He was upside down over her, loving her bush and lick-kissing like eating her inner thighs. Till at last they loved fully and later lay back. She did not chatter. Their arms stirred in a luxurious desultory twining.

The Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith

The actual lovemaking was a series of cryptic clues and concealed pleasures. A sensual treasure hunt. She asked for something, then changed her mind. He made adjustments and calibrations, awaited further instruction.

For most of the proceedings he felt his own desire as if it were tethered to a wire, a bright red balloon floating in his peripheral vision, but eventually he burst through. It was toward the end, as their breathing quickened. Her stage directions had stalled out into silence. He looked to his right and noticed the scene in the smoky lens of the mirror above the bureau, saw his own body move with the steady rhythm of a bellows blowing air at the base of a fire. It brought back the early experiments at the photographic society in Paris, the wiring of a bird’s feet to a cameragun, the mounting tension and uplift before a surge of exasperated flight. His own face looking back in the mirror – open-mouthed, flushed, euphoric – was a wild, strange thing to him. A beguiled stranger he’d never met, held in place by an infinite loop. Then his eyes locked on Sabine’s in the mirror and he could see that she was pleased with her staging, with her hair fanning across the pillow, with the way her ankles locked about his calves so that her long white feet formed a perfect V. And it was the act of looking back at the filmstrip juddering above the bureau that sent her into a final boisterous delirium. She bit his shoulder, then whispered into the mirror, Nous voilà, catching her breath, There we are.

Le Bateau Ivre, Thursday, 28 November 2019 10:24 (two weeks ago) link

Houellebecq almost made the cut. Depicting Japanese women as fond of bestiality, among other deviations, was deemed too much in keeping with the novel’s overall tone, however.

pomenitul, Thursday, 28 November 2019 10:27 (two weeks ago) link

At first pass, I’d say Harvey’s is the most risible entry.

pomenitul, Thursday, 28 November 2019 10:30 (two weeks ago) link

Not that I'm praising any of these, but they're notably not as bad as in previous years

imago, Thursday, 28 November 2019 11:33 (two weeks ago) link

Think the Gilbert might be the worst

imago, Thursday, 28 November 2019 11:35 (two weeks ago) link

reading these made me a nullo

A victim managed to capture evidence of the gimp (bizarro gazzara), Thursday, 28 November 2019 11:53 (two weeks ago) link

‘Exactly. Ah. But boy, you taste good.’

Sorry, but this right here is the nadir.

pomenitul, Thursday, 28 November 2019 11:55 (two weeks ago) link

Def less bad than previous years. First one "wins"

Simon H., Thursday, 28 November 2019 12:05 (two weeks ago) link

Kinda leaning toward Harvey. Costello is simultaneously bad sex writing and bad Hemingway, which is bad indeed, but the wretched dialogue is what pushes Harvey over the top for me.

shared unit of analysis (unperson), Thursday, 28 November 2019 12:25 (two weeks ago) link

I could just about make it through the first one, haven't worked up the courage to read the rest yet tbh

'Skills' Wallace (Tom D.), Thursday, 28 November 2019 12:27 (two weeks ago) link

I agree with Unperson, it's Harvey's botched dialogue that makes me vote for that one.

Le Bateau Ivre, Thursday, 28 November 2019 12:37 (two weeks ago) link

remind me to never have sex with Elizabeth Gilbert

or something, Thursday, 28 November 2019 13:17 (two weeks ago) link

who could read these and ever want to have sex again

A victim managed to capture evidence of the gimp (bizarro gazzara), Thursday, 28 November 2019 13:26 (two weeks ago) link

( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

pomenitul, Thursday, 28 November 2019 13:27 (two weeks ago) link

i hate the decoin the most for the omelette rolls analogy

american bradass (BradNelson), Thursday, 28 November 2019 13:29 (two weeks ago) link

"And then it was the most, and I more or less died."

yes, he was just the ginchiest

is the gilbert supposed to be consensual?

i kind of like the dominic smith. slightly overwritten, but only slightly, and i can actually understand what he's trying to say

i like that the dialogue in the john harvey is awkward and stupid - it's not awkward and stupid in a realistic way, but sex is often awkward, stupid, and ridiculous. it's the descriptions that make it clear that harvey himself is awkward, stupid, and ridiculous - "He watched the death-life fill her growingly", what the fuck even is that?

for the record i'm more-or-less asexual already

Agnes Motörhead (rushomancy), Thursday, 28 November 2019 13:42 (two weeks ago) link

"He watched the death-life fill her growingly", what the fuck even is that?

A riff on the little death, I'm guessing, which also gives us a subtle indication as to its size.

pomenitul, Thursday, 28 November 2019 13:46 (two weeks ago) link

A reference to le petit mort, I gather, deployed terribly. xp

Le Bateau Ivre, Thursday, 28 November 2019 13:48 (two weeks ago) link

oh no, my organ cavities

mookieproof, Thursday, 28 November 2019 14:48 (two weeks ago) link

BRB, furtively making omelette rolls.

Self Disabuse (Sanpaku), Thursday, 28 November 2019 15:33 (two weeks ago) link

An alternate view: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/nov/28/bad-sex-award-julian-gough

tl;dr: fuck these public school tossers and their leering, prurient award.

Sent me the wrong t-shirt it says let’s summon demons (Matt #2), Thursday, 28 November 2019 18:03 (two weeks ago) link

The earthy taste surprised her. When he was alive, when it swelled inside Miyuki’s mouth, Katsuro’s penis had tasted of raw fish, of warm young bamboo shoots, and of fresh almonds when she finally released its juices. Now it was insipid and muddy to her tongue, like the pools of the temples of Heian Kyō when the Office of Gardens and Ponds had them drained for cleaning.
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I really, really hope "Advertisement" is in the actual book text.

That's funny, Julian Gough's extract last time was some atrociously dismal writing that I identified as one of the worst two. Don't publish your writing if you don't want it pulled apart and mocked. I suppose he excuses himself by saying it was meant to be dismal or something

imago, Thursday, 28 November 2019 18:08 (two weeks ago) link

lmfao what a hysterically self-serving pointless tantrum

imago, Thursday, 28 November 2019 18:11 (two weeks ago) link

you got dragged on the internet and consequently had the gall to equate Your Struggle with global free speech issues, what a colossal prick!

imago, Thursday, 28 November 2019 18:13 (two weeks ago) link

ends with 'buy my book' of course it does haha

imago, Thursday, 28 November 2019 18:13 (two weeks ago) link

This is quite a crop. The Gilbert passage is just straight-up bad writing. Unless she's fifteen, in which case: good job!

War Crimes Tribunal of the Network Stars (Old Lunch), Thursday, 28 November 2019 18:22 (two weeks ago) link

A reference to le petit mort, I gather, deployed terribly. xp

― Le Bateau Ivre

to clarify, i wasn't asking what harvey was trying to say with that, it was more "how on earth does one write prose that bad" - "death-life" by itself is perhaps merely a hacky gloss on someone with some vague notion of "French" notions of sexuality, but then to end the sentence with "growingly" - i initially read it as 'growlingly' but no actually "growlingly" would improve the sentence, i think. The overall effect is more laughably crude than more workaday euphemisms like "erect member" - was he attempting to write a Tom Swiftie?

similarly, there is the phrase "luxurious desultory twining". it is _work_ to write this poorly. harvey has either a decent vocabulary or the resources to fake it, and an understanding that words can be modified from their usual part of speech for effect, but chooses combinations of words words that, while they may be individually merely inoffensive and banal, taken in concert are grotesque in both scansion and meaning.

Agnes Motörhead (rushomancy), Thursday, 28 November 2019 20:02 (two weeks ago) link

lmfao what a hysterically self-serving pointless tantrum

― imago, Thursday, November 28, 2019 6:11 PM

It's a bit overblown but I think enough of it is correct. It's always been a shitty and unfair award.

Robert Adam Gilmour, Friday, 29 November 2019 17:56 (one week ago) link

"He kisses them. Teases a nipple with his lips. It’s so soft; and then, suddenly, hard.

Wow.

He sucks on the hard nipple.

He has never done this before, and yet; no, wait, of course, it is totally familiar.

The first thing he ever did."

In my head this was an Owen Wilson "wow."

Greta Van Show Feets BB (milo z), Friday, 29 November 2019 18:14 (one week ago) link

"And then it was the most, and I more or less died." is the funniest punchline, and the excerpt is probably the worst in an amateurish way, but Harvey is really something... else. Gotta go with that

“Hakuna Matata,” a nihilist philosophy (One Eye Open), Friday, 29 November 2019 18:17 (one week ago) link

The Gough article is pretty dumb imo w/many faulty premises

if even straight white males, often with major publishers behind them, are going to be humiliated for writing about sex, then is anyone going to be able to at all

“Hakuna Matata,” a nihilist philosophy (One Eye Open), Friday, 29 November 2019 18:19 (one week ago) link

I read the first one, then I stopped reading. If any of the rest are worse than that, I most emphatically do not want them in my head. Alas, this debars me from voting.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 29 November 2019 18:22 (one week ago) link

Can someone make a browser plugin that adds a Goughian 'wow' to random ILX posts?

"Alas, this debars me from voting.

Wow."

“Hakuna Matata,” a nihilist philosophy (One Eye Open), Friday, 29 November 2019 18:28 (one week ago) link

Decoin one is fine, with a few mildly effective jokes that might be on the character. The Gilbert one is fine, bar a handful of lit-major eyerolls that might be the character’s voice, not the novel’s.

insecurity bear (sic), Saturday, 30 November 2019 01:08 (one week ago) link

The other three feel more like they’re indicative of bad books but not especially egregious.

insecurity bear (sic), Saturday, 30 November 2019 01:10 (one week ago) link

I never knew a penis could taste insipid.

Evans on Hammond (evol j), Saturday, 30 November 2019 01:46 (one week ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Sunday, 1 December 2019 00:01 (one week ago) link

Decoin one feels like it's probably quite racist in an exoticising way? But I don't know enough about the author or book to know if that's just my own "ick" feeling or grounded in reality.

Gilbert one I do think is okay, it's a character voice - not one I care for particularly, but recognisable as such.

Voted for Harvey, despite feeling like in his case it's not the sex part of the writing that makes it bad. A lot of bad sex writing is more like the Costello one with too much specificity and not enough sense, and certainly no sexiness. But with Harvey, he actually doesn't go into crazy TMI detail about the sex, he just seems like he would write badly about anything.

emil.y, Sunday, 1 December 2019 18:13 (one week ago) link

Did any of the organizers write sex or say what sex writing they enjoyed?

Just watched a youtube video called Girls Describe Their Favorite Hentai Scenes, shot at a convention with mostly cosplayers being interviewed and it was kind of funny.

Robert Adam Gilmour, Sunday, 1 December 2019 20:01 (one week ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Monday, 2 December 2019 00:01 (one week ago) link

Went the same way as the official award

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Wednesday, 4 December 2019 01:59 (one week ago) link


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