Monday 19 February 2018

A novel honour for Irish writer as book wins bad sex award

Rowan Somerville with actresses Sarah Crowden (left) and Lucy Beresford at the Bad Sex awards in London
Rowan Somerville with actresses Sarah Crowden (left) and Lucy Beresford at the Bad Sex awards in London

John Spain Books Editor

IT is an award given every year to a sometimes shamed, sometimes delighted, author for a truly awful literary description of a sexual scene.

Now Irish writer Rowan Somerville has described as "an honour" the winning of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award 2010 for passages in his second novel, 'The Shape of Her'.

The award is presented each year by the 'Literary Review Magazine' in London. Originally set up to discourage lurid writing about sex, it has become something of a humorous celebration of ridiculous or crude sexual passages in modern literature.

Somerville beat some high-profile writers to take this year's award, including former Tony Blair spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who was nominated for his novel 'Maya', and American novelist Jonathan Franzen, who was nominated for his novel 'Freedom'.

The judges said they were particularly taken with Somerville's sentence: "Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her."

Other amorous passages in 'The Shape of Her' that appealed to the judges contained a female body part "upturned like the nose of the loveliest nocturnal animal, sniffing the night" and described how one character "released his hair from her fingers and twisted onto her belly like a fish flipping itself".

The Irish author was presented with the 18th annual Bad Sex award by film director Michael Winner at a lavish ceremony in London this week.

Somerville said it was "an honour to share a list with Jonathan Franzen. There is nothing more English than bad sex, so on behalf of the entire nation I would like to thank you".

Somerville, whose father is Irish and mother is English, has lived in Ramelton in Donegal and Leenane in Galway but is now based in London.

"I consider myself Irish, I've got an Irish passport," he says. "The only reason I'm in London is because it's hard to find work at home these days and I've got a family to support."


He is a highly regarded writer whose first novel, 'The End of Sleep', made it on to the shortlists for the Glen Dimplex and Commonwealth awards.

In the past, the Bad Sex Award has gone to such literary stars as Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, AA Gill and Sebastian Faulks; John Updike won a special lifetime achievement award in 2008 after making the shortlist four times.

Irish writers Roddy Doyle, Jamie O'Neill and Brian O'Doherty have been shortlisted, and John Banville has been nominated twice (for 'Shroud' and 'The Infinities').

Somerville is the first Irish writer to win the award, which was established in 1993 by Auberon Waugh.

Irish Independent

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