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Choice Bits of Bad Sex in Books

By Andrew Donaldson for The Times:

Short, sharp guidance and observations from a journalist with attitude.


Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith (Simon & Schuster), R185

Smith’s Child 44, a runaway success in 2008, was the first instalment in a trilogy to feature Leo Demidov, Stalin’s favourite KGB agent. It was followed by The Secret Speech and now this, an intense Cold War intrigue spanning three decades of political terror that brings it all together. Fans of Phillip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther novels will be in familiar territory.


Tonight, at a glittering affair somewhere in London, the Literary Review hands out its annual Bad Sex in Literature award, honouring once again the “crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel”.

Announcing the shortlist, the journal noted: “In a year in which literary awards have come under fire for parochialism and dumbing-down, Literary Review is proud to uphold and recognise literary excellence from around the world. Authors in the running hail from, among other nations, the US, Hungary, Japan and Australia. Two are annually mentioned in the same breath as the Nobel Prize.”

Herewith, choice bits from some nominees:

“In the shower, Ed stood with his hands at the back of his head, like someone just arrested, while she abused him with a bar of soap.” (Ed King, David Guterson)

“We got rid of our clothes, and clung, and he was in me then.” (On Canaan’s Side, Sebastian Barry)

“My tongue furiously worked the craters.” (Dead Europe, Christos Tsiolkas)

“Every part of my body sang some song I had never heard.” (The Final Testament of The Holy Bible, James Frey)

“[Her breasts] seemed to be virtually uninfluenced by the force of gravity, the nipples turned beautifully upward, like a vine’s new tendrils seeking sunlight.” (1Q84, Haruki Murakami)

“She was wearing jeans. The fabric whispered under my palm. She leaned back and her head bonked on the door. ‘Ouch!’ I said. ‘Are you all right?’” (11.22.63, Stephen King)


Skimming through the London Sunday Times‘ books of the year lists, I came across the arrestingly titled stocking-stuffer, How Not To Talk Like an Arse: 101 Words You Shouldn’t Use Any Time Soon by Richard Wilson (Portico). An apparently hilarious attack on modern day vernacular, it targets the “ridiculous, nonsensical words” – bromance, staycation, frenemy, “listen up, people” and “fashionista” – that are not only “just plain crap”, but also suggests those who use them are morons.

Two things. No one who writes for Sunday supplements will read this book. And, by this time next year, an astute local publisher will have a Seffrican version in our book stores.


“I used to think booze and sex would bring me joy. Now it’s a nap.” – Holidays in Heck by PJ O’Rourke (Atlantic Monthly Press)

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