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Bad Sex in Fiction Award goes to UMBC professor

The Washington PostJohn Updike

Sex that compares to supernovas, solar systems, quarks and atomic nuclei? Oh my.

Such is the (possibly over-)heated prose of UMBC professor Manil Suri, whose literary description of the sexual act in his novel "The City of Devi" was so overwhelming in its cosmic significance that he's been awarded the coveted Bad Sex In Fiction award by Britain's Literary Review.

Here's a sample of Suri's work, tame enough to be published in an all-audiences forum:

"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."

Oh. My.

Suri, a professor of mathematics at UMBC, seems to be taking the award -- given to "draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it” -- in stride. He told Ron Charles of the Washington Post, "I suppose one can never predict what buttons one might press when one writes about sex. But I feel a real sense of exhilaration at this award — it’s great that readers will now have the chance to decide for themselves.”

He also objected mildly that the passage was taken out of context, suggesting that describing sex with such inter-stellar imagery made perfect sense in the world of his novel. But then he caught himself, admitting, "But I’m getting too professorial, a ghastly trait, especially in the bubbly context of this award."

(For the full story from the Post's The Style Blog, click here.)

Of course, any embarrassment Suri might have felt was probably alleviated somewhat by the company he keeps. Previous winners of the award include Tom Wolfe, John Updike and Norman Mailer.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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