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Woody Guthrie leads contenders for the Bad Sex in Fiction prize

November 08, 2013|By Carolyn Kellogg
  • Folk singer Woody Guthrie's recently discovered novel is a finalist for the 2013 Bad Sex in Fiction prize.
Folk singer Woody Guthrie's recently discovered novel is a finalist… (File )

Long-dead folk hero Woody Guthrie leads the contenders for the 2013 Bad Sex in Fiction prize. The shortlist was announced by the Literary Review, a London literary journal that endeavors -- through embarrassment, mostly -- to coax novelists to do a better job writing about sex.

Guthrie wrote his only completed novel, "House of Earth," in 1947. It had been filed away with Guthrie's papers and languished undiscovered until recently, when scholar Douglas Brinkley came across a mention and went looking for it. Johnny Depp launched his HarperCollins imprint with it in October of this year.

"House of Earth" is about a couple in the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma; and the passage cited for the Bad Sex in Fiction award includes the sentence, "Her body melted into a single note of music to the sky." 

In his novel "The World Was All Before Them," Michael Reynolds' nominated passage includes "surfing the waves of neuromuscular euphoria" as "brain cells swirl and jive."

Other contenders include Eric Reinhardt's "The Victoria System," a French bestseller about an ambitious developer and his obsessive affair with a ruthless executive; Rupert Thompson's "Secrecy," about a 17th century sculptor; Jonathan Grimwood's "The Last Banquet," set in Versaille; "The City of Devi," Manil Suri's almost-apocalyptic novel set in Mumbai; and Susan Choi's "My Education," about a college student who has an affair with her professor.

This is one award nobody wants to win.

Previous winners of the Bad Sex in Fiction award include Norman Mailer, Sebastian Faulks, Tom Wolfe and Jonathan Littell.


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