LONDON, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- The Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award 2001 was held on Dec. 4th in St. James's Square in London. For the short-listed victims, the event is a tribal ritual of humiliation, conducted in a room filled with champagne quaffing, whistling and guffawing fellow scribes, while a pair of actresses read out, even perform, the selected purple passage.
The award was originally set up by Auberon Waugh to discourage writers of fiction from feeling obliged, under pressure from their publishers, to include gratuitous sexual descriptions in their prose; it has also afforded the pleasure of catching otherwise good and serious novelists with their literary trousers round their ankles.
The only American writer whose work was read out was Jonathan Frantzen, whose antics with an antique chaise longue in his extravagantly publicized "The Corrections" provided the room with much hilarity.
Salman Rushdie failed to make the grade, however, as his "Fury" offers little apart from references to a girl with a very long and "gymnastic" tongue, and a man who dislikes having the top of his bald head touched during sex.
We listened to a passage describing a man having sex with a fairy (of the gossamer singed variety), and someone struggling with a packet of Tasty Tickler condoms.
The winning extract, however, from Christopher Hart's "Rescue Me", was made of heroic stuff. Like the intrepid polar explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the heroine's hand ventures determinedly up his leg and towards the hero's North Pole, and the young man realizes, in wonder and terror, that when she achieves her goal, she will surely want to pitch her tent. The author assured us that he had written this touching portrayal of a young man's vulnerability to an older woman's seduction with complete seriousness.
Any embarrassment was surely compensated by receiving his award, and being kissed on camera, from Jerry Hall, recently starring on stage in The Graduate in London's West End.
Alas, a book I would have liked to nominate but which has not yet been translated is a novel called "Zabibah wal Malik" (Zabibah and the King). A tragic tale of loveless marriage, rape and death, a note inside explains that the author "did not wish to put his name on it out of humility, like the sons of Iraq who sacrifice their lives and their valuables and never talk about their great deeds." This untypical modest author is believed to be no other than Saddam Hussein -- getting in touch with his feminine side? Perhaps inside every dictator lurks a secret romantic. The CIA apparently spent several months analyzing its text.
The London bookshop where I obtained my own copy of this work assures me that a second book by the same author will shortly be available. I can hardly contain my excitement. Naturally I have reserved my copy.
All in all, it has been an interesting year for literary endeavors of one sort or another. 2001 kicked off with the film, "The Diary of Bridget Jones," based on a newspaper column by Helen Fielding, whose "Bridget," like Fielding herself, spent a great deal of time researching chardonnay and men in my local wine bar, 192 Kensington Park Road.
In China, an extraordinary secret language for women was discovered, with its own unique script. Known as Nu Shu, it developed over hundreds of years among peasant women, when Chinese girls were denied formal education. The language was brought to light by the film maker Yang Yueqing, who found a few surviving speakers of the tongue in a cluster of rural villages in southern Hunan province.
And in Turkmenistan, a 4,000-year-old stone seal discovered by archaeologists from Pennsylvania University points at a lost civilization and a previously unknown written language.
Dr. Hiebbert has been given a grant from the National Geographic Society for further excavations of the site, and I look forward to attending his lecture on the subject at London's School of Oriental and African Studies in January 2002.
Meanwhile, I'm all a-tingle for Saddam's second romantic opus and hope it arrives in time for Christmas. (Wonder whether the English translation rights are still available ... and who his literary agent is?)