Author’s baffling ‘billiard rack’ anatomical comparison wins prize for Bad Sex in fiction
American author Christopher Bollen was named winner of the 2017 prize for bad sex in fiction on Thursday, for a passage from his novel The Destroyers, which sees the male protagonist comparing his own genitalia to a “billiard rack.”
The prize, first awarded by Literary Review magazine in 1993, aims to “draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them,” according to the magazine.
“The skin along her arms and shoulders are different shades of tan like water stains in a bathtub,” Bollen wrote in his award-winning passage. “Her face and vagina are competing for my attention, so I glance down at the billiard rack of my penis and testicles.”
The Literary Review said: “The judges felt that there are parts in the book where Bollen goes overboard in his attempts to describe the familiar in new terms, leading occasionally to confusion. In the line quoted … they were left unsure as to how many testicles the character in question has.”
New York-based Bollen, an editor at large at Interview magazine, was not at Thursday’s ceremony at a London hotel to collect his award. The Destroyers, is his third novel.
He beat out a shortlist of writers including airport thriller bestseller Wilbur Smith.
Venetia Welby – whose novel Mother of Darkness was nominated for a passage that included “the marble statue of the lovers allows itself to be painted by the dawn’s lurid orange spillage” – tweeted before the prize was announced that it was an honour to be on the shortlist.
Bollen joins an esteemed list of previous winners of the prize, including literary titans such as Sebastian Faulks, Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe, as well as Smiths singer Morrissey, who won for his debut novel.
Additional reporting by The Guardian