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The Literary Review Bad Sex Prize 2013


Manil Suri's third novel, The City of Devi, has won the most dreaded award in the world of books: the Literary Review Bad Sex Prize.

The award was presented by Joan Collins in a ceremony attended by 400 guests at the Naval and Military Club in London, which is generally known as the In & Out.

Manil Suri's publishers accepted the bad sex award on his behalf, and urged readers to take the book to bed.

Suri - who has previously been longlisted for the Man Booker and shortlisted for the Faulkner awards - lives in the US, where he is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Maryland. The judges were seduced by the climax of a sex scene - set in a curfewed Mumbai under threat of a nuclear bomb - involving all three of his main characters: Sarita, her physicist husband Karun and a young gay man.

Suri wrote: "Surely supernovas explode that instant, somewhere, in some galaxy. The hut vanishes, and with it the sea and the sands - only Karun's body, locked with mine, remains. We streak like superheroes past suns and solar systems, we dive through shoals of quarks and atomic nuclei. In celebration of our breakthrough fourth star, statisticians the world over rejoice."

The Bloomsbury representative said: "Take The City of Devi home to bed with you tonight and discover sex scenes that the TLS praised as 'unfettered, quirky, beautiful, tragic and wildly experimental', written by an author who, according to the Wall Street Journal: 'captures the insecurity, the curiosity and even the comedy of those vulnerable moments.' As Jane Austen observed: 'One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other."The prize was launched in 1993 by the late Auberon Waugh, to "draw attention to crude, badly written, or perfunctory use of passages of sexual description in contemporary novels - and to discourage it'. Past winners include Tom Wolfe, Rachel Johnson, Giles Coren, AA Gill and Norman Mailer, and in 2008 John Updike was awarded a lifetime achievement prize.

The musician Woody Guthrie, best known for his folk and left-wing protest songs, made this year's shortlist 46 years after his death.
His book House of Earth, written in 1947, was published for the first time this year - with an introduction by the actor Johnny Depp, and a love scene lasting 30 pages that is literally a roll in the hay: "Back and forth, side to side, they moved on their bed on the hay. Back and forth, side to side, they moved their hips, their feet, their legs, their whole bodies. Their arms tied into knots like vines climbing trees, and the trees moved and swayed, and there was a time and a rhythm to the blend of the movement."

The City of Devi prevailed over strong competition including Susan Choi's My Education ('I seemed to come right away, with a hard, popping effervescence, as if her mouth had raised blisters, or an uppermost froth; but beneath, magma still heaved and groaned and was yearning to fling itself into the air'); Woody Guthrie's House of Earth ('And as she sucked the last drops of his blood and his seed into the folds of her innermost soul and self, she felt her whole body lift, pull, squeeze, then lift again, tremble, shake, and quiver, and in her fires of her stomach she strained and moved to bathe his blood into the rumble and the thunder of her own.'); and Eric Reinhardt's The Victoria System ('The zip of her skirt sputtered between her fingernails like a motorboat on a waveless sea ... My erection beat time in my underwear.')

The shortlist also included:

• The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood
• Motherland by William Nicholson
• The World Was All Before Them by Matthew Reynolds
• Secrecy by Rupert Thomson