When Morrissey published his debut novel he no doubt aspired to be mentioned in the same breath as Norman Mailer and John Updike. But the singer now has additional cause for misery after he joined the select pantheon of writers awarded the Bad Sex in Fiction prize for an egregious passage in his critically-savaged tome.
A depiction in List of The Lost of the erect penis of his hero as a “bulbous salutation” ensured that Morrissey became the runaway favourite to win the 23rd presentation of the Literary Review prize, designed to “draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them.”
Triumphing over worthy contributions from Erica Jong and George Pelecanos, Morrissey declined to receive in person the award of a plaster foot on a plinth, presented at the In & Out (Naval & Military) Club in St James’s Square, London, in front of 400 guests on Tuesday night.
List of the Lost follows four Boston relay runners who are cursed by an old man in the woods. The Literary Review said the judges were “swayed by an ecstatic scene involving Ezra, one of the athletes, and his plucky girlfriend, Eliza”, whose “breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra’s howling mouth” during the painful passage.
The organisers said: “Morrissey was unable to attend due to touring commitments and was unavailable for comment. As he explains in List of the Lost: ‘Sex was always there – everywhere photographically, in print, in film, so expansively thought about that almost nothing more could need to be said about it…’”
Thomas W Hodgkinson, a former judge, said Morrissey’s entry “seems to have been written with the sole intention of winning the Bad Sex award.” An admirer of Morrissey’s achievements as a songwriter, Hodgkinson said “his awfulness as a novelist is so dire, so viscerally distressing, that one doesn’t know what to do with oneself.”
The Bad Sex award is the final insult heaped on a 118-page novel dismissed contemptuously by reviewers as “self-indulgent”, “misogynistic” and an “unpolished turd.”
Morrissey said the critics’ verdict were “an attack against me as a human being and have nothing to do with what they’re reading.”
List of the Lost prevailed over The Martini Shot, by Pelecanos, the celebrated screenwriter of The Wire, (“She stroked my pole and took off my briefs, and I got between her and spread her muscular thighs with my knees and rubbed myself against her until she was wet as a waterslide”); Joshua Cohen’s Book of Numbers (“Her mouth was intensely ovoid, an almond mouth, of citrus crescents. And under that sling, her breasts were like young fawns, sheep frolicking in hyssop – Psalms were about to pour out of me”); and Fear of Dying, by Jong, the creator of the ‘zipless fuck’, (“While I lie next to him, astounded by his presence still, he opens my silk robe and touches my c**t as if he were Adam just discovering Eve’s pussy”)
Previous winners of the Bad Sex in Fiction award, established in 1993 by Auberon Waugh, include Ben Okri, Norman Mailer, John Updike, a lifetime achievement winner, and Melvyn Bragg.
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