No-one’s in it to win it!
Last week, Booker Prizewinner Ben Okri became the latest author to receive the literary world’s least sought after award. The winning entry is from his novel The Age of Magic:
‘When his hand brushed her nipple it tripped a switch and she came alight. He touched her belly and his hand seemed to burn through her. He lavished on her body indirect touches and bitter-sweet sensations flooded her brain.
She became aware of places in her that could only have been concealed there by a god with a sense of humour.’
The Literary Review’s prize for the year’s worst erotic prose, the brainchild of Auberon Waugh, came of age in 2013 so Ben Okri is the twenty-second writer to scoop up this dubious honour. He is not the first distinguished author to do so, having been preceded over the past two decades by some unexpected recipients such as Pulitzer award-winner Norman Mailer. However, this year’s short list probably included more names than ever before – famous for the high quality of their writing rather than the bad.
The 2014 Man Booker winner, Richard Flanagan was there. Surprisingly perhaps, his dubious contribution of bad sex comes from the very book that won the more important accolade: The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Haruki Murakami was there too, for a passage in his novel Colorless Tzukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage. Another contender was Wilbur Smith, popular writer of historical African adventure stories, yet another Pulitzer Prizewinner Michael Cunningham.
So what is all the fuss about? You may judge some for yourself:
‘Hands found flesh; flesh, flesh. He felt the improbable weight of her eyelash with his own; he kissed the slight, rose-coloured trench that remained from her knicker elastic, running around her belly like the equator line circling the world.’ (Flanagan)
‘Shiro’s were small, but her nipples were as hard as tiny round pebbles. Their pubic hair was as wet as a rain forest. Their breath mingled with his, becoming one, like currents from far away, secretly overlapping at the dark bottom of the sea.’ (Murakami)
‘He lives for seconds in that soaring agonizing perfection. It’s this, only this, he’s lost to himself, he’s no one, he’s obliterated, there’s no Tyler at all, there’s only… He hears himself gasp in wonder. He falls into an ecstatic burning harmedness, losing, lost, unmade.’ (Cunningham)
It was all very well for Okri’s editor to say after the event that the award ‘was fun‘, but no novelist wants to write bad sex, do they? I wonder that any of the relevant passages of literature escaped the publishing editors’ first reads.
And oh! – For me, by the way, the icing on the cake was that the prize was presented by a clergyman from my part of the world, the Reverend Richard Coles, one-time member of a British pop band.
A bit of fun , yes, but all publicity is good publicity, right?