Meet Your 2010 Bad Sex in Fiction Winner (“Like an Otter Through Wet Sand”)

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11/30/2010 11:51 AM |

Not entirely surprising, this.

  • Not entirely surprising, this.

Hearty congratulations to Rowan Somerville, who last night in London was crowned winner of the Literary Review‘s annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award for 2010, on the perhaps inevitable merit of passages in his novel The Shape of Her. He beat out nominees including the overenthusiastic former Blair spin doc Alastair Campbell, and Jonathan Franzen, for at least one passage in Freedom I can think of (it involves a bathing suit wedgie).

The Bad Sex in Fiction Award did consider a work of nonfiction for the first time, the Guardian reveals in its report, looking closely at Tony Blair’s new mem before concluding “that the passage was too brief to merit it.”

The winning passages from Rowan Somerville’s The Shape of Her, courtesy again the Guardian, after the jump. It may be slightly NSFW, unless your W is a S place for rhythmically seesawing verbs and copious animal similies:

He caught her rhythm, pulling and releasing, cradling and crushing; pushing up through his fingers with each swing, mining up, like an otter through wet sand. Her sounds shifted from moans to grunts, insistent, almost desperate cries from the throat … He unbuttoned the front of her shirt and pulled it to the side so that her breast was uncovered, her nipple poking out, upturned like the nose of the loveliest nocturnal animal, sniffing in the night. He took it between his lips and sucked the salt from her. He hooked his fingers into her waistband, caught the elastic of her underwear and began pulling down. The knot on her light cotton trousers held fast as the fabric reached the curve of her backside. She twisted from him and stepped back.

‘I want to suck you,’ she said, descending … She loosed his trousers, pulled away his underwear and gripped him with fingers tender enough to hold a tiny bird.

As he felt her mouth’s engulfment, he acquiesced, disappointment melting like ice in hot cream.


Naked from waist to toe, a faint wedge of paleness from a few hours of sun, streaked with shadows in the candlelight; the triangle of pubic hair, blond, a thin line bunched darkly, like desert vegetation following an underground stream. He placed his hand on the concave stretch that was her belly, letting two fingers rest in the yawn of her navel. He slipped downwards, grazing the tight skin of her waist with his fingertips. He reached her hair line and the muscles of her belly hardened as she raised herself up onto her elbows. She stayed his hand and drew him, yanked him, into a smothering kiss. She released his hair from her fingers and twisted onto her belly like a fish flipping itself, her movement so brusque his chin bounced off her head.

He grasped the side of her hips, pushed her away and pulled her to him with a slap. Again and again with more force and velocity. Tine pressed her face deeper into the cushion grunting into the foam at each thrust.

The wet friction of her, tight around him, the sight of her open, stretched around him, the cleft of her body, it tore a climax out of him with a final lunge. Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.

“Upturned like the nose of the loveliest nocturnal animal, sniffing in the night.”

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