Bad Sex in Fiction nomination for Canadian Nancy Huston

Nancy Huston, a Canadian-born writer living in Paris, has received a dubious honour – a nomination for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

J.K. Rowling and E.L. James escaped being named for dubious honour

Nancy Huston, a Canadian-born writer living in Paris, has received a dubious honour – a nomination for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

Nancy Huston is nominated for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award for a passage from Infrared, her latest novel. (Laurent Rebours/Canadian Press)

The annual contest by Britain’s Literary Review draws "attention to the crude, badly written, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel." This year, eight contemporary writers are nominated.

Huston is named for her book Infrared, her own translation of a novel she originally wrote in French, Infrarouge, about a free-spirited photographer who finds herself trapped on a holiday tour with her elderly father and his wife, a woman with whom she feels no connection.

The offending passage: "This is when I take my picture, from deep inside the loving. The Canon is part of my body. I myself am the ultrasensitive film — capturing invisible reality, capturing heat."

This year’s list of nominees did not include E.L. James, whose Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has been everywhere this year, or J.K. Rowling, who wrote her first adult novel The Casual Vacancy. 

Rowling’s sex passages were bad, but not bad enough, and it declined to look at Fifty Shades, because the prize "explicitly excludes pornographic and erotic literature," according to Literary Review senior editor Jonathan Beckman.

This year's shortlist includes:

  • The Yips by Nicola Barker.
  • The Adventuress by Nicholas Coleridge.
  • Rare Earth by Paul Mason.
  • Noughties by Ben Masters.
  • The Quiddity of Will Self by Sam Mills.
  • The Divine Comedy by Craig Raine.
  • Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe.

Wolfe, the American writer who won the award in 2004 for I Am Charlotte Simmons, is nominated for a description of his heroine’s first sexual experience in Back to Blood.

It reads in part: "Now his big generative jockey was inside her pelvic saddle, riding, riding, riding, and she was eagerly swallowing it swallowing it swallowing it with the saddle's own lips and maw — all this without a word."  

Back to Blood is a sprawling epic about the immigrant tangle of Miami, starring a Cuban cop, a Russian oligarch and a black police chief and a bunch of drug-addled criminals.

Particularly notable is Barker’s passage from Man Booker-longlisted novel The Yips, about a repugnant ex-golfer in freefall, which is being oft re-tweeted on Twitter.

"She smells of almonds, like a plump Bakewell pudding; and he is the spoon, the whipped cream, the helpless dollop of warm custard."

The winner will be named Dec. 4 in London.

Last year the prize was won by David Guterson for Ed King, published by Bloomsbury.