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Irish chap romps off with Bad Sex award

'Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect...'

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Irish author Rowan Somerville has seen off former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell in the race to secure the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award 2010.

Somerville deservedly took the honours for excerpts from his second novel The Shape of Her, including: “Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.”

According to the Telegraph, the pensmith also attracted the judge's attention with his description of a female body part “upturned like the nose of the loveliest nocturnal animal, sniffing the night”.

One of his characters improbably “twisted onto her belly like a fish flipping itself”.

Among the other books shortlisted for bad sexual practice were The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and Campbell's Maya.

Tony Blair's ex-advisor came to the judges' attention for a passage in which a character reckons "the walls were going to fall down as we stroked and screamed our way through hours of pleasure to the union for which my whole life had been a preparation".

The Telegraph suggests, however, that Campbell's "vocal" enthusiasm for winning the award counted against his prospects, since the whole exercise was designed by Auberon Waugh in 1993 to highlight "crude, tasteless, and often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in contemporary novels, and to discourage it".

It was Somerville, then, who stepped up to the podium last night in London's In & Out Club to accept his laurels from film director Michael Winner.

He said: “What an honour to share a list with Jonathan Franzen and Christos Tsiolkas. There is nothing more English than bad sex, so on behalf of the entire nation I would like to thank you.” ®

Bootnote

Previous winners include Tom Wolfe, who was in 2004 applauded for this passage in I am Charlotte Simmons: "Slither slither slither slither went the tongue, but the hand that was what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological caverns."

Norman Mailer posthumously donned the crown in 2007 for The Castle in the Forest, in which a male character is "ready at last to grind into her with the Hound, drive it into her piety".

Aniruddha Bahal takes some beating, though, for his 2003 Bunker 13 prizewinner: "She's taking off her blouse. It's on the floor. Her breasts are placards for the endomorphically endowed. In spite of yourself a soft whistle of air escapes you. She's taking off her trousers now. They are a heap on the floor. Her panties are white and translucent. You can see the dark hair sticking to them inside. There's a design as well. You gasp.

"'What's that?' you ask. You see a designer pussy. Hair razored and ordered in the shape of a swastika. The Aryan denominator... "

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