The Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award Shortlist has been announced. And here are some extracts. I will go about them, bookbitching style (Also crossposted there). That’s absolutely necessary.
Disclaimer: I haven’t read any of the books, so if some things aren’t as weird in context, I won’t know.
Extract from The Gate of Air by James Buchan
She stood in the afternoon light, as if the light was coming from her own body, [Can you stand in light coming from your own body? Wouldn’t then the light stand in you?] from her breast and eyes and where her dress had been […] Jim ached with her nakedness. His arms and legs were as lifeless as fallen branches. [Not a good sign. Maybe an apoplexy?] He understood that love was a power and force of a different order from anything else beneath the sky, and could demolish not merely family relations or notions of right and wrong [This is probably the argument for incest…] but also what was real and what was not. Jim’s world had been knocked a little out of its axis, and would not be restored.
She turned to him. Her face had taken on her nudity or rather had shed a veil it wore for the world. [You’ve got to get over her being naked. Seriously. We got it, she undressed and is lit up like a pumpkin on Halloween. And her face is naked, too.] She said:
‘Perhaps you’d like to take off your shorts.’
‘Do I have to?’ [No, sweetie, we can dry-hump as well… If someone I want to sleep with seriously asks me whether he actually really has to, then I’m gone. No hard feelings. (ha!)]
‘I think you do.’
He felt that if he touched her breast she might be brought down to earth. [So, she’s a floating Halloween pumpkin!] He touched the round breast and hard bead at its tip. He felt something else fall from her, like a garment, [Seriously, how often can this girl get undressed without getting dressed in the meantime?] as she leaned one knee on the bed. Light billowed out of her, and warmth in damp gusts as if from a garden after a rainstorm. [A wet, floating Halloween pumpkin.] She did not seem to be a woman, but something altogether stronger and sweeter. [A sugared, wet, floating Halloween pumpkin. Somebody else reminded of American Pie, btw?] A darkness engulfed him, like a wave breaking over him in the sea shallows, and when he opened his stinging eyes he saw her pretty face before him.
‘What about your husband?’
‘Sod him.’ She seemed to have forgotten she had one. [No, if she’d forgotten him, her answer would have been “what husband?” She doesn’t care about him, apparently. But that’s not the same thing.]
Jim felt strong, and handsome, and armed to the teeth. He felt like a barefoot runner, a wrestler, a charioteer. [This is like the usual montage of rockets etc. in movies which don’t want to show groaning people…] He felt his childhood receding from him, and he felt not the smallest regret. No more the poor fatherless orphan for him! [Unless we’re in some kind of weird time loop thingy, the fatherless part doesn’t change for him by having sex, does it?] He was an outlaw and all the better for it! [I haven’t read this book, but is it set in some kind of Dystopia, where sex is illegal? No? Then how come he’s an outlaw by having it?]
© James Buchan
Extract from Sashenka by Simon Montefiore
[Warning, this one is less funny and more of a rant because it actually is a rape scene and not a sex scene. Text bolded just to show you why I think that.]
Inside, the room was dark, lit only by the lurid scarlet of the electric stars atop each of the eight spires of the Kremlin outside the window. They backed on to a bed that sagged in the middle, the sheets rancid with what she later identified as old sperm and alcohol in a cocktail specially mixed for Soviet hotels. [Yuck! And you really want to have sex there?] She wanted to struggle, to reprimand, to complain, but he grabbed her face and kissed her so forcefully that a lick of flame burned her to the core. [Oh. Well, it seems that it’s only him, who wants to have sex there. Do we seriously get a sex scene of the variety of “if she says no, keep on raping her and she will have fun after a while and in the end she will be eternally grateful, because women secretly want to be raped”? Weren’t those outlawed yet? No? Must have been a dream then. A beautiful, beautiful dream.]
His hands pulled her dress off her shoulders and he buried his face in her neck, then her hair, scooping up between her legs. [What are you scooping between her legs? Ice cream?] He pulled down her brassiere, cupping her breasts, sighing in bliss. ‘The blue veins are divine,’ he whispered. At that moment, a lifetime of unease about this ugly feature of her body was replaced with satisfaction. [Yes, because a) only beautiful people get raped, therefore b) it’s a compliment if you get raped, especially if the rapist tells you you’re beautiful and c) all, women who are not comfortable with their bodies need, is a men to compliment them–ca-tching, self-esteem repaired!] He licked them, circling her nipples hungrily. [Like a pack of wolves circles a hurt deer?] Then he disappeared up her skirt. [Holy shit, where did he go??? How big is her skirt?]
She pushed him away from there, once, then twice. But he kept returning. She slapped his mouth, quite hard, but he didn’t care. [Do you need more evidence that he’s raping her?]
‘No, no, not there, come on, no thank you, no…’ [There you go.] She cringed, closing her eyes bashfully. [Yeah, I bet, she’s bashful and not, say, hurt or scared. I bet, if you look closely you can see her flirting with him, edging him on.]
‘You’re beautiful,’ he said.
Could that be true? Yes, he insisted and he swiped her with his tongue. [I swipe a electronic card every morning when I get to work. But I never swiped someone with my tongue. That’s just wrong.] No one had ever done this to her before. [Me, neither! And I’m pretty happy about it, actually.] She shivered, barely able to control herself. [There you go–he rapes her and now she starts enjoying it. *takes a break to scream a little bit*]
‘Lovely!’ he said.
She was so ashamed she actually hid her face in her hands. ‘Just don’t!’
‘See if you can pretend it isn’t happening!’ was his suggestion as he buried his face in her. [Oh, this must be real love! “Just pretend it isn’t happening!” #%§$§%%’] When she finally looked down, he peered back at her, laughing. [It’s sooo funny to rape you, my love! Squirm a bit more, else I can’t enjoy it that much. And maybe you can scream a little bit now? *needs to throw up*] I’ve got a lover, she thought, incredulous. [No, honey. You have an abusive asshole raping you. That’s quite the contrary. And you probably have some serious delusions, so go see a psychiatrist and save yourself!] His irrepressible carnality enthralled her. [Irrepressible carnality my ass! If that was the case, she would willingly have sex with him, probably.] It was like the first time with her husband, her only other lover – but then it was not like that at all. [What?] In fact, she reflected, [because now is the perfect time to reflect] this is me losing my real virginity at the hands of this infernal, lovable, Jewish clown who is so unlike any of the macho Bolsheviks in my life. [Okay, I dare you to use the phrase “I lost my virginity at the hands of an infernal, lovable, Jewish clown, who raped me.” while talking to someone today. And then leave me a transcript of that conversation in the comments.]
He’s a madman, [Exactly! Maybe your delusions are easing up!] she thought as he made love to her again. Oh my God, after twenty years of being the most rational Bolshevik woman in Moscow, this goblin has driven me crazy! [Honestly, I don’t know what to say to that anymore.]
He eased out of her again, showing himself. [Was he hiding till now? Or… oh! your talking about his dick, right? Then SAY SO!]
‘Look!’ he whispered as she did. Was this really her? [No, it’s him. Look, spaghetti arms. This is my dance space. This is your dance space. This is his dick, and you don’t have one!] There he was between her legs again, doing the most absurd, lovely things to places behind her knees, the muscle at the very top of her thighs, her ears, [are her ears between her legs?] the middle of her back. But the kissing, just the kissing, was heavenly […] He made her forget she was a Communist. [Because Communists don’t have sex. That’s how the Soviet Union fell, didn’t you know? There were no children anymore.]
© Simon Montefiore
Extract from To Love, Honour and Betray by Kathy Lette
Sebastian was lying across his bed with the blinds drawn wearing nothing but a towel, hands lazily laced behind his head as he watched the cricket on a small flickering television screen in the corner. [Oh, cricket! It’s so hot, I’m wet already.] His chest was the size of a South American country. [Holy shit! How does he fit on the bed? Oh, and which South American country? There’s a pretty big difference between Brazil and Suriname. Anyway, I hope that the rest of his body is in proportion…] A slanting tongue of lamplight lit up his lap [Oh, the naughty lamplight, always giving blowjobs…] and I could see the outline of his large appendage. [What appendage? One of his arms? One of his legs? At least, apparently, they’re in proportion to his countrysized chest.]
After agonizing for, oh, about two-fifths of a second, I straddled him on the bed, pinning his arms beside him with all my body weight. [Didn’t he just have his arms behind his head? How can you pin them beside him, then?] ‘Remember what you said about chastity being curable if caught early enough?’
I kissed his mouth ravenously, devouring his neck, earlobes, chest. [Sweety, if you’re hungry, eat a burger. Leave the poor guy whole.] He broke free with muscular ease, unhooked my bra with composed expertise, found my nipple and flicked his tongue back and forth until it went hard. [Okay, I’m usually not one to cry about adjectives, but in this case: GET RID OF THEM!] His towel fell away. Sebastian’s erect member [why? WHY, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD? Don’t you dare member me!] was so big I mistook it for some sort of monument in the centre of a town. [Uhm… on the one hand, that’s pretty small, if his chest is the size of a whole country. On the other hand, do I really want to have sex with a monument? Uhm… ow?] I almost started directing traffic around it. He rolled me sideways on to my back and, in one flowing motion, my tracksuit [oh, pure sex!] and panties were down, lassoing one ankle. [Undressing her in one motion? That’s really skilled.] His fingers edged up my thigh and then plunged inside me. [First of all, plunged? Seriously? Second, do his fingers have a life of their own? And third, that was it with the foreplay? And this is written by a woman… really?] My legs yielded to the weight of his body and I wrapped them around his hips, tugging him against me with a pang of hunger I hadn’t felt for so long [You just ate his neck, earlobes and his countrysized chest. And you’re still hungry?] […]
I was pulling him into me with an animal force I didn’t know I possessed. I’d been parched for so long, [one more reason for more foreplay!] and he was the long, cool, sensual drink I’d craved. I twisted under him, caught in the heat and the slide and the thrill of it. There was nothing but obliterating sensation as we contorted like origami creations for the next hour [that sounds seriously uncomfortable and hurtful and not at all sexy], until a sweet and inward rapture [raptures can be sweet? I didn’t know… for me, raptures are pretty violent.] spread through my thighs, leaving me tranquil, calm – serene at last. [Serenity through Sex: How to Find Your Inner Balance by Banging As Many People As You Can. The new self-help book in stores now!]
© Kathy Lette
Extract from Triptych of a Young Wolf by Ann Allestree
Christine, on her knees, turned to see him naked before her. She was shocked anew by his fine strong body with its prodigious cover of curly black hair. [I know a lot of people now go “ew, body hair!” But I like it.] Swiftly he lifted her up and pressed her to the wall. Fondling her breasts he undid her shirt, her linen trousers fell to the floor. [Were her trousers attached to her shirt? I I mean, if you undo my shirt, my trousers don’t go anywhere. Yet.] She kicked off her moccasins and gave way to his arms. [Where are his arms that her moccasins get in the way?] Uqba snatched at the bath towels and lay her down. [Why lift her up and press her against the wall if you’re just lying her down right away again? You know, you can fuck standing up…] Her nipples tensed as he dabbed them lightly with his tongue; her skin tingled at the brush of his lithe body slipping to her knees. ‘Open your thighs,’ he urged as he parted the folds of her vulva. [How can he get to her vulva if her legs aren’t open yet?]
‘You are so moist down there.’ [Down there? Are you shitting me?] He stroked and probed her with two fingers [Probed? That might be the least sexy word I can think of. Only topped by stoked.] as she felt her blood waken. [Leave your blood out of this. Please.] He raised himself to his knees and bent to roll his tongue around her weeping orifice. [*speechless*] He was bringing her to a pitch of ecstasy when she heard Madame Veuve, on the landing, put down the supper tray. Whiffs of onion soup strayed over them as he engulfed her. [Onion soup… How arousing. Now some of my orifices are weeping too. I’m just afraid that they’re not the one, Allestree had in mind. *wipes eyes*] ‘Don’t stop,’ she clamoured; she was nearly there, it was in the bag. [What’s in the bag? And where did the bag come from?] She flung her arms around his neck and pulled him down. He rubbed her slowly with the tip of his nose and his lips as she shuddered to her climax. [I’m afraid to tell you, but that’s not what nose job means…]
Uqba stood and grinned happily down at her, his own Christine, [No, her own Christine, you don’t own her, even if you just rubbed your nose against her. (I wonder how that could actually make her come, btw.] tousled and flushed in the foetal position. [General rule: If the girl you just slept with (more or less) curls up into the foetal position, you did something wrong.] He was fingering his penis, but before he could plunge [There we are again… Don’t use plunge in a sex scene, please, please, please!] it deep inside her, she had knelt before him and taken the membrane into her mouth. [Membrane? I do think you meant member, didn’t you? Wouldn’t make it much better, but at least it would make sense.] With pursed lips and darting tongue and teeth [darting teeth? Girl, now you’re scaring me], her fingers drumming on his buttocks and up his soft inner thigh [deadra had a guy once drumming a rythm on her ass. Uninvited. In a disco. She hit him in the solar plexus and that’s what Uqba should do to Christine as well. But I’m pretty sure that he fears for his membrane, with all the darting teeth around…], she was destroying him. [Not the reaction I would hope for in a guy I’m giving a blow job. Honest.] He clung to her shoulders, trembling, as he ejaculated, moaning with each gush.
[And what happened to Madame Veuve?]
© Ann Allestree
Extract from Shire Hell by Rachel Johnson
JM comes over and pushes me gently back down on the fake fur. [If you write it like that, that’s exactly what I see: JM comes over to my house. I open the door. He pushes me on the fake fur. No “hello” or anything else in between. I don’t know if that’s what you were going for.] I try to rise up to kiss him – it’s so lovely, the kissing – but he pushes me down, again. He likes to kiss me all over before he does anything else. He starts with my eyes, and plants a tender kiss on each lid. [Well, if he’s kissing you anyway, why do you need to get up to kiss him? Somewhere, we lost the logic in these three sentences.]
… He moves on to my ears, a kiss that makes my nipples stand erect, and me emit little moans that drown out to my own ears the loud, distracting sound of Cumberbatch swiping dock leaves and tearing nettles and long grasses very close to the rickety stoop. [Uhm, huh? 1. This must be really big little moans if they drown out any kind of sound. 2. Who’s Cumberbatch? 3. Since when is swiping leaves and tearing nettles so loud a business? 4. why is there anything growing on the stoop? Aren’t the usually made from wood? But most importantly, 5. why should I care about Cumberbatch and his landscaping, when there’s JM and the fake fur?]
JM’s hands are caressing my breasts, now, and I am allowed to kiss him back, but not for long, for he breaks off, to give each breast the attention it deserves. [So, your breasts deserve more attention than you do? You ARE a female writer, aren’t you?] As he nibbles and pulls with his mouth, his hands find my bush, and with light fingers he flutters about there [what, did you get stuck in her bush? ove on to her clit, for crying out loud.], as if he is a moth caught inside a lampshade. [Did you just compare the guy pushing you into the fake fur with a moth? Wasn’t there a less powerful animal around?]
Almost screaming after five agonizingly pleasurable minutes, I make a grab, to put him, now angrily slapping against both our bellies [what? the? fuck? why is he slapping their bellies? Hang on. She’s talking about his dick?! Why is HIS DICK slapping against their bellies? Angrily, even?], inside, but he holds both by arms [sic?] down, [I sure hope she’s talking about JM again and not his cock] and puts his tongue to my core, like a cat lapping up a dish of cream so as not to miss a single drop. [First a moth, now a kitty… No, those comparisons don’t work for me…] I find myself gripping his ears [When you write “I find myself doing this” I find myself picturing you blacking out and when you come to again, you’re doing something weird… like gripping somebody’s ears] and tugging at the locks curling over them, beside myself, and a strange animal noise escapes from me as the mounting, Wagnerian crescendo overtakes me. [Did she just compare an orgasm to Wagner? Way to kill my buzz, thanks a lot!] I really do hope at this point that all the Spodders are, as requested, attending the meeting about slug clearance [Just when I thought, this sex scene couldn’t get any worse, you bring up slugs. Way to go!] or whatever it is.
[A small sidenote: What’s up with those names? Spodder, Cumberbatch… Is there actually anybody around whose name that is?]
© Rachel Johnson
Extract from The Reserve by Russell Banks
Jordan Groves and Vanessa Von Heidenstamm did not notice the approaching darkness. [The darkness had practiced long hours to be completely inaudible when sneaking up on lovers… Or are you talking about The Darkness? Then this is definitely an immensly kinky sex scene.] They were still immersed in their lovemaking. It had begun slowly, tenderly, face-to-face, with long, lingering looks at each other, like devoted siblings [Oh yuck! Way to bring incest into the whole thing. So, now we have incest and a glam rock band involved. This can only get better…] at the start of a long absence taking their last leave of each other, gathering in all the details they had neglected to notice up to now. They removed their clothes, [Weren’t they already making love, like siblings, with The Darkness?] their own and each other’s [if you phrase it like that, there’s bound to be more than two people involved, no?], delicately, precisely, as if preparing to model for an artist, and once naked, seated side by side on the bed, they turned to face each other, and with their hands on each other’s bare shoulders, they kissed – sweetly, as if in relief and gratitude for having come to the peaceful end of a painfully protracted argument. [I have to admit, I don’t get half of what he’s rambling about. Up till now, it would have done to say: They made love, slowly, tenderly, face-to-face. Scratch the rest of that paragraph. And then shorten the sentence I left you once more.] And then they embraced and with their hands caressed each other’s breasts and backs and arms – her skin smooth and creamy and soft as fine silk, his alabaster white and tautly drawn over muscle and bone – and their separate bodies gradually lost their boundaries and merged into a third body [Justin Hawkins, I guess], one that contained all their female and male differences and erased all their anatomical contrasts and inversions.
[This stuff just leaves me scratching my head… What the fuck is going on?]
© Russell Banks
Btw, Rachel Johnson won. Who would have been your favourite?