Books

James Frey beats out stiff competition to win 2018 Bad Sex in Fiction Award

04 December 2018 - 14:02
Author James Frey said he was 'humbled and honoured' to win the 2018 Bad Sex in Fiction Award.
Author James Frey said he was 'humbled and honoured' to win the 2018 Bad Sex in Fiction Award.
Image: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Sex. Most people have it. Everyone talks about it. Writing about it, however, is a tricky business.

In acknowledgement of the fact that many writers, even literary prize winners and giants of the canon, struggle to describe the act without descending into corniness and horrid cliché, there’s an annual tongue-in-cheek award in recognition of their worst attempts. Presented by the Literary Review in London, previous winners of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award have included Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, Giles Coren and Morrissey.

This year’s award went to controversial author James Frey. The writer, famous for crying and admitting to Oprah he’d embellished large parts of his bestselling 2004 memoir A Million Little Pieces, earned his first nomination in 2011 for a passage from his novel The Final Testament of the Holy Bible. But it was for one of the many passages of bad sex from his most recent novel Katerina that Frey scooped the not-always-so coveted prize.

Katerina is described as “a fictional retelling” of his hedonistic love affair with a Norwegian model in the 1990s. 

Frey's novel beat out stiff competition from an all-male shortlist which included the likes of best-selling Japanese writer Haruki Murakami and Man Booker nominee Gerard Woodward. 

The Guardian quotes the Bad Sex in Fiction judges as saying that Frey won “by virtue of the sheer number and length of dubious erotic passages in his book”.

“The multiple scenes of sustained fantasy could have won [Frey] the award many times over."

So how bad could an award-winningly bad sex passage be? Here is the worst of the numerous passages from Katerina. Warning: the passage you’re about to read contains graphic language including multiple references to ejaculate and takes place in a Paris bathroom.

“Blinding breathless shaking overwhelming exploding white God I cum inside her my cock throbbing we’re both moaning eyes hearts souls bodies one ... One. White. God. Cum. Cum. Cum. I close my eyes let out my breath. Cum. I lean against her both breathing hard I’m still inside her smiling …”

And so on – you get the point – boy meets girl in Paris, boy and girl have lots of sex in Paris that shatters boy into … a million little pieces … Years later, boy tries to write about the sex, fails abysmally but wins some recognition for his efforts, although not perhaps the kind he was hoping for. A tale as old as time.

Frey was at least a good sport about it all. The Guardian reports that he sent a statement in his absence to tell everyone he was “deeply humbled and honoured and humbled to receive this prestigious award”.

“Kudos to all my distinguished fellow finalists – you have all provided me with many hours of enjoyable reading over the last year,” he said.

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