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Book News: Even Good Writers Have Bad Sex Sometimes

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

It's a literary contest now more than two decades old, and the just-announced shortlist boasts such august names as this year's Man Booker winner, a Pulitzer winner and a perennial favorite for the Nobel. Still, despite the promise of being included on an equally august list of past winners, it's not likely any of them care to win this prize.

The answer to this riddle is really quite simple: Welcome to the 2014 Bad Sex in Fiction Award. The dubious honor, presented by the Literary Review, aims "to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them."

Even literary luminaries are guilty of bad sex, it appears. For instance, take this vaguely family friendly excerpt from nominee — and aforementioned Booker winner — Richard Flanagan: "Whatever had held them apart, whatever had restrained their bodies before, was now gone. If the earth spun it faltered, if the wind blew it waited. Hands found flesh; flesh, flesh."

Let this be a reassurance to fledgling writers everywhere: Even the titans stumble with sex scenes sometimes. While you wait for the Dec. 3 decision, read the relevant excerpts from the 10 nominees over at The Guardian.

Thailand Bans Book On Royals: Thai police have banned the sale and distribution of a book by British journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall, asserting that the book unduly criticizes Thailand's king. Thai national police chief Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung released a statement Wednesday saying that the book, A Kingdom in Crisis, "insults, defames and threatens Thailand's monarchy," adding that it's "a danger to national security and peaceful and orderly society."

The order, which is rooted in Thailand's lese-majeste law, threatens violators with jail terms of three years or a maximum fine close to $2,000, according to The Associated Press.

Roth On Film: Philip Roth's novel Indignation has been picked up for a big-screen adaptation, Deadline reports. The film, which would mark the directorial debut of former Focus Features CEO James Schamus, is set to begin shooting next summer.

Dylan Thomas Notebook Surfaces: Dredged from a drawer, where it's languished untouched for more than seven decades, an old notebook owned by Dylan Thomas is finally seeing the light of day. The Guardian reports that the notebook contains 19 poems written by Thomas between 1934 and 1935. While these poems did end up seeing publication, the drafts and revisions revealed in the book could prove to be a revelation for scholars baffled by some of them.

And they might never have been found, had Thomas' mother-in-law got her way. She wanted the notebook burned in the kitchen boiler.

"The relationship between Thomas and his mother-in-law was not the best," expert Gabriel Heaton told The Guardian, in a remarkable understatement. "It isn't hard to imagine that he was not an ideal son-in-law."

Walter White Goes Full Hal: In perhaps the best casting decision of the year, Bryan Cranston narrates the audiobook of You Have to [Bleep]ing Eat. Cranston, who for more than a decade has played fathers either menacing or inept, picks up the sequel to foul-mouthed ode to parental frustration Go the [Bleep] to Sleep, which itself recently got a rather popular reading from former Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton. You can check out an animated (and, yes, profanity-laced) preview of Cranston's interpretation here.

Product Placement Gets Rolling: Much was made last week over the release of an e-book funded primarily by in-text nods to Sweet'N Low. Yet the book is by no means alone: William Boyd, the author behind the latest James Bond novel, Wednesday published "The Vanishing Game," a story driven in large part by its references to Land Rover. The vehicle brand paid him in the low six figures for the endorsement, reports The Associated Press.

"They said they wanted an adventure and they said, 'Somewhere in this adventure it would be good if a Land Rover appeared,' " Boyd told the AP. "But it was left entirely to me the extent I concentrated on that."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.
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