The Literary Review proclaimed Christopher Bollen the winner of the 2017 bad sex award last night at a ceremony in London, cementing his place as one of 25 writers to take home the prize since it began in 1993.
The rest of her remains so delectably exposed. The skin along her arms and shoulders are different shades of tan like water stains in a bathtub. Her face and vagina are competing for my attention, so I glance down at the billiard rack of my penis and testicles.
And with that, Bollen’s fate was sealed. As the two-time novelist and editor-at-large of Interview magazine penned these shamefully cumbersome lines to his third novel The Destroyers, little did he know that this would be the scene to persuade the judges at The Literary Review of his indisputable victory. The publication further clarified: ‘The judges felt that there are parts in the book where Bollen goes overboard in his attempts to describe the familiar in new terms, leading occasionally to confusion. In the line quoted … they were left unsure as to how many testicles the character in question has.’
While the peculiar comparison to the protagonist’s ‘billiard rack’ is one thing, Bollen’s lamentable phrase, ‘Her face and vagina are competing for my attention’, is less a steamy description of lust than an appalling example of tasteless male fantasy. In an otherwise well received work of fiction, passages in the book were singled out for their overenthusiastic tone and incongruous descriptions:
On the stone porch, in the hot, mountain air, we grapple with our clothing, which, in the darkness, becomes as complicated as mountaineering gear. Her black shirt around her neck, mine unbuttoned, our shorts and underwear slid to our ankles, we seem to be moving at avalanche speed and also, unfortunately, with avalanche precision.
Though some speculation has suggested the annual award is elevating the quality of writing about sex, The Literary Review’s Frank Brinkley maintained that ‘although we found lots of good sex [in fiction] this year, that doesn’t mean the bad sex was gone … There’s still plenty of room for the prize’. In light of this, I think it’s worth feasting our eyes on the six other contenders who missed out on the top prize. I also think it is worth noting – and wholly unsurprising – that six of the seven nominees were men.
He puts his hands on Bianca’s shoulders and slips off her low-cut top. Suddenly inspired, he whispers into her ear, as if to himself: ‘I desire the landscape that is enveloped in this woman, a landscape I do not know but that I can feel, and until I have unfolded that landscape, I will not be happy …’
Bianca shivers with pleasure. Simon whispers to her with an authority that he has never felt before: ‘Let’s construct an assemblage.’
From Mother of Darkness:
Light filters in from the ravaging streaks of the dawn. It splits into fragments of every hue the world has hidden as it strikes the prism of their shelter. Tera’s eyes expand and reflect, crystal orbs of time and space. She moans in colours as he pushes the white dress away and beyond the angelic flesh, luminescent against the damp, mossy bed.
From As a God Might Be:
Looking down, she unbuckled his belt. ‘We’re grown-ups.’
Perhaps he wasn’t quite in the moment, because he thought of Kierkegaard and Socrates. If there wasn’t great wisdom gained by lust, by love, its consummation – the aesthetics of all this – then you were doing it wrong.
‘Kiss me again.’
From The Future Won’t Be Long:
Memories of these previous encounters became distant, remote, erased once I got down to brass tacks with Jon de Lee.
With Jon it was communication, a dialogue between two bodies, electric impulses transmitted over wires of flesh and bone. Words one cannot speak, words that can only be heard. Skin that became skin that became skin anew.
We made love and we had sex and we had sex and we made love. But reader, again, I implore. Mistake me not. I am not your Pollyanna, I am not your sweet princess. We fucked, we fucked, we fucked, we fucked, we fucked, we fucked.
Wilbur Smith (with David Churchill)
From War Cry:
‘I’m going to have you now,’ Leon said. He led her back up the beach to where the sand was dry. Then he took off his coat, placed it on the ground and she lay down upon it.
‘Christ!’ he muttered, placing himself on top of her. ‘It’s bloody cold. I might get frostbite on my cock.’
She gave a low purring laugh. ‘Silly man. Why don’t you put it somewhere hot?’
From Here Comes Trouble:
A clothed body is always human or human-like, a naked body always animal or animal-like. Only at close quarters is the full extent of a body’s wildness revealed, like when a bird gets trapped inside a house. One is moved to not entirely human thinking then. One goes towards its animalness.