The shortlist was announced last week for one of the most hotly contested awards in the literary calendar.
The Literary Review magazine's Bad Sex in Fiction Award will be presented on 6 December, at the Naval and Military Club in St James's Square, London, to one of the following lucky novelists: Haruki Murakami for 1Q84, Sebastian Barry's On Canaan's Side, James Frey, for The Final Testament of the Holy Bible, Parallel Stories by Peter Nadas, 11.22.63 by Stephen King, Ed King by David Guterson, The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M Auel, The Affair by Lee Child, Dead Europe by Christos Tsiolkas, Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller, Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy and The Great Night by Chris Adrian.
The prize was founded in 1993 by The Literary Review's then editor, Auberon Waugh, to "draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it". The 1993 prize was won by Melvyn Bragg for his novel, A Time to Dance. His successors include Sebastian Faulks (who refused to turn up to collect his award; instead it was accepted by the runner-up, Alan Titchmarsh), A A Gill, and Tom Wolfe. In 2007 the award was given posthumously to Norman Mailer for a passage in The Castle in the Forest that included the sentence: "Uncle was now as soft as a coil of excrement." In 2008, John Updike was awarded a lifetime achievement acknowledgement.
In its original incarnation as a gentlemen's club in Piccadilly, the Naval and Military became known as the "In and Out", for the prominent signs above its gates. It is still affectionately – and sniggeringly – called that, since it moved premises to St James's Square in 1996.
Invitations to the prize ceremony are among the most coveted of the literary year, with celebrities rubbing shoulders with literary icons in the cramped and often sweaty room. Those who have presented the prize include Mick Jagger, Courtney Love, Michael Winner and Dominic West, who in 2008 mingled with Toby Young, Anthony Grayling, Nancy Dell'Olio and the Satanic Sluts (whose frontwoman Georgina Baillie was then at the centre of the Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross "Sachsgate" tapes).
Last year's winner was Rowan Somerville for passages in his novel, The Shape of Her, including a sex scene in which: "like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her". Somerville later complained that "there's an atmosphere of bullying peculiar to public schools about the whole thing", and dismissed The Literary Review as a "tiny magazine".
Among this year's contenders, Murakami ("I'm still erect now, and it shows no sign of subsiding. Neither Sonny and Cher nor three-digit multiplication nor complex mathematics had managed to bring it down") faces stiff competition from Stephen King, for this scene: "'Is it over, or is there more?' 'A little more,' I said. 'I don't know how much. I haven't been with a woman in a long time.' It turned out there was quite a bit more ... At the end she began to gasp. 'Oh dear, oh my dear, oh my dear dear God, oh sugar!'"
"Although winning the Bad Sex award isn't among my chief ambitions in life, I think it's kind of brilliant to be included," this year's shortlister Dori Ostermiller tells the IoS. "Who wouldn't be honored to be on stage with writers like Murakami, Guterson, Franzen, Updike...? I've never been in such illustrious company."