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Pin-striped tumble wins Bad Sex prize

Michelle Pauli
Wednesday December 4, 2002

The 'most dreaded literary prize' has been won by Wendy Perriam for a description of pin-striped sex in her novel Tread Softly.

The annual Literary Review Bad Sex prize is awarded to the worst description of sex in a contemporary novel. This year's winner includes the lines "Weirdly, he was clad in pin-stripes at the same time as being naked. Pin-stripes were erotic, the uniform of fathers, two-dimensional fathers. Even Mr Hughes's penis had a seductive pin-striped foreskin."

"Coming a close second" was Nicolas Coleridge for a passage in his novel Godchildren, in which he describes a man stroking his lover "like a groom reassuring a frightened foal".

Other literary big-hitters featured on the longlist were Hari Kunzru, also shortlisted for both the Whitbread First Novel Award and Guardian First Book Award; Will Self for Dorian; Jeffrey Eugenides for Middlesex; actor-turned-writer Ethan Hawke; and Canongate's rising star, Michel Faber, for The Crimson Petal and the White.

Wendy Perriam, who has been nominated for the prize three times in a row, said that she was "stunned but pleased" by her win, insisting that the winning scene had been intended to be humorous.

She attributes her interest in sex to her convent upbringing. "We were taught that sex was wicked and so I became totally fascinated by it," she explains. "In a sense I write sex scenes as I still want to be sure that it really happens and that people are taking the risk of going to hell..."

"Sex can still be such an unknown subject that the secrets of the bedroom are a real area for novelists to explore, especially to shed light on character," she added.

The prize, presented this year by socialite Nicky Haslam, is a semi-abstract statue representing sex in the 1950s.

The award was set up by the literary critic Rhoda Koenig and the late editor of the Literary Review Auberon Waugh in 1993. Previous winners include Christopher Hart for his description of love-making as a polar exploration, AA Gill, Sebastian Faulks and Alan Titchmarsh.

04.12.2002: Read the winning and shortlisted extracts
Christopher Hart's top 10 classic erotica


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