LONDON — Author Rowan Somerville won literature's little-coveted Bad Sex in Fiction Prize Monday for the use of unsettling insect imagery in his novel "The Shape of Her."
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Judges of the annual literary award said they were especially impressed by a passage comparing lovemaking to "a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect."
The animal imagery continues elsewhere in the novel, a tale of desire and memory set on a Greek island. One character's fingers are described as "tender enough to hold a tiny bird."
The prize, founded in 1993 by Literary Review magazine, aims to draw attention to "the crude, tasteless, and often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in contemporary novels."
Somerville, who was born in Britain and lives in Ireland, took his victory in good humor, noting that "there is nothing more English than bad sex."
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He said he was honored to be shortlisted alongside authors like Australia's Christos Tsiolkas — for "The Slap" — and American writer Jonathan Franzen, nominated for the best-selling "Freedom."
Previous winners include such literary heavyweights as Sebastian Faulks, Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and the late John Updike, who was awarded a lifetime achievement Bad Sex prize in 2008.
Last year's winner was "The Kindly Ones" by American author Jonathan Littell, which described a sex act as "a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg."
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