Book News: Booker Winner Ben Okri Nabs Bad Sex Prize
The daily lowdown on books, publishing and the occasional author behaving badly.
The Literary Review sent an unmistakable message to authors at a ceremony in London on Wednesday: If you're going to write a sex scene, it's probably best not to mention rockets — symbolic or otherwise. The magazine awarded its 22nd annual Bad Sex in Fiction prize to Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri, a man who did just that in his latest novel, The Age of Magic.
Okri's past accolades — he, after all, did win the Booker Prize in 1991 — didn't spare him from the dubious honor, which recognizes "poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction." Nor did their plaudits spare Haruki Murakami, Richard Flanagan (who won this year's Booker) or Michael Cunningham, all of whom shared the Bad Sex shortlist with Okri.
Presumably, though, it was the rocket that launched Okri to his win.
"She felt certain now that there was a heaven and that it was here, in her body," Okri wrote, in one safe-for-work section of the offending sex scene, all of which can be read here. "The universe was in her and with each movement it unfolded to her. Somewhere in the night a stray rocket went off."
Unsurprisingly, Okri did not make the ceremony. But he did send a grim statement of his own in response: "A writer writes what they write and that's all there is to it."
Raymond Chandler's Lost Opera: A comic opera written by Raymond Chandler and never published has been uncovered at the Library of Congress, according to The Guardian. The paper notes that the 48-page libretto to The Princess and the Pedlar marks a departure from the detective fiction for which Chandler is best known. Registered for copyright in 1917 when he was still a teenager, the opera predates Chandler's first novel by two decades and bears traces of Gilbert and Sullivan, quite unlike his later work.
Writer Kim Cooper discovered the opera, and she recounts her story of stumbling across it in a recent blog post.
Buying In Book: If you take a special liking to one of the many objects in Miranda July's new book, she would like you to do something: Buy it. The writer and filmmaker has paired her upcoming debut novel, The First Bad Man, with a newly launched Web companion, where readers can bid on items that appear in the book. These include "Necklace with Heavy Beads" (current bid: $107.50), old envelope ($41) and even pink boxers (price TBD!). All of the proceeds from the website will go to The National Partnership for Women and Families.
Authors Guild V. Google: The legal battle between the Authors Guild and Google saw another round Wednesday, as a panel of judges heard oral arguments in the appeal to a 2013 ruling in Google's favor. The long-running lawsuit — first filed in 2005 — stems from Google's library book scanning project, which the Authors Guild says is detrimental to the market for books. Last year, a judge dismissed the Authors Guild's lawsuit; this time around, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals also seemed less than receptive, according to a detailed report on the hearings by Publishers Weekly.
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