UMBC Professor Wins “Bad Sex Writing” Award

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Manil Suri is a professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He’s also a novelist who writes about nuclear physics, the politics of India/Pakistan, and, apparently, bad sex. Or, put more accurately, bad writing about good sex; Suri is this year’s winer of the Literary Review’s “Bad Sex in Fiction” prize for his novel The City of Devi.

Here’s the passage the judges singled out:

“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.”

Which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t all that bad. But according to the New York Times, actual physicists objected to the passage: “In the throes of passion, supernovas and quarks are very far from the mind of the average physicist,” said Cal Tech physicist Sean Carroll, while MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark told the paper “I’d rather be forced to grade 100 statistical mechanics exams than be forced to read this book.” Ouch!

The Literary Review takes pains to note that Suri has also been nominated for plenty of desirable awards, including the Man Booker Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award.

Read the other bad-sex-writing nominees here.

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