Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Bad Sex, Bad Sex Awards, and Bad Bad Sex Awards

The Bad Sex in Fiction Awards are meant to chastise "the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel".

The things is, I think they often seriously miss the point.  In the modern novel sex is often meant to be crude, perfunctory, pointless, awkward and even downright weird.  Not every book is clearly chaste or outright erotic.  There is a lot of territory in between--just like in life.

A gross/humorous modern retelling of Oedipus is obviously going to include sex, and also pretty obviously something other than sublime sex. It may not be a horrendously successful book, but that applies to the book as a whole, not just the sex parts.

So in terms of the awards goals to point out sex scenes that are "redundant" and "discourage" them:
  • 1) Removing the sex scenes would in no way improve the book, but in fact render it completely pointless as sex with one's mother is rather central to the plot of Oedipus Rex, and
  • 2) Guterson did not sound very discouraged when he responded to his win with the statement: "Oedipus practically invented bad sex, so I'm not in the least bit surprised."

The whole thing reminds me of that pointless award for books with silly titles which often ends up erroneously targeting books with completely accurate titles about topics that are really not as silly as they might seem.

Just because the judges don't know of (or care about) the immense scientific value of nude mice in the battle against cancer, or the fact that marmalade has an interesting history, does not make the titles of books on these subjects "odd".

See also:
When “bad” awards miss the point

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