Bad sex: Carnal pink palpitations are a winner!

The 2012 Bad Sex in Fiction Award has been awarded to Nancy Huston for her novel Infrared. The Guardian is all over this award.  Here is an excerpt from the award-winning novel, featuring “the quivering sensation, the carnal pink palpitation that detaches you from all colour and all flesh…”  And here is an article on the award process and the other nominees.  J. K. Rowling didn’t win it for The Casual Vacancy, apparently, because her writing wasn’t nearly bad enough.

I haven’t read Huston’s novel, or Rowling’s, or any of the other nominees this year.  But I did read 1Q84, which was a nominee last year, and it certainly had one very weird sex scene.  These sentences from it don’t really do it justice, but you’d have to read the entire book to understand the true weirdness of what is going on:

A freshly made ear and a freshly made vagina look very much alike, Tengo thought. Both appeared to be turned outward, trying to listen closely to something – something like a distant bell.

I have written a bunch of sex scenes, and they are really hard to do well.  At the physical level, sex is straightforward and not particularly interesting to describe.  At the emotional level, you want to amp things up, because the emotions are typically what’s important to the story.  But amping it up leaves you open to carnal pink palpitations.  So you have to find a balance between that sort of prose and cutting to curtains blowing in an open window, or a train entering a tunnel.  Who said writing was easy?

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