James Frey wins the Bad Sex in Fiction prize for a thong scene in ‘Katerina’

James Frey at Chateau Marmont in 2008.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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James Frey, the author of the controversial 2003 memoir “A Million Little Pieces,” finally has a literary prize of his very own: the Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

Frey, who in 2006 admitted to fabricating parts of his bestselling memoir of addiction and recovery, took home the 2018 bad sex prize for his novel “Katerina.”

The novel follows a writer who has an affair with a model in 1990s Paris. The Literary Review, the publication which has presented the prize since 1993, gave Frey the prize (link contains an excerpt of his book, with profanity) because of “an extended passage set in a Paris bathroom involving the narrator, Jay, and his lover, Katerina, a model from Norway,” who wears thong underwear.


Frey seemed to take the prize in stride. “I am deeply honored and humbled to receive this prestigious award,” he said in a statement. “Kudos to all my distinguished fellow finalists, you have all provided me with many hours of enjoyable reading over the last year.”

Those distinguished fellow finalists, all of whom are men, include Gerard Woodward for “The Paper Lovers” and Haruki Murakami for a scene in “Killing Commendatore” in which the author compares an intimate body part to “warm butter.”

Frey became headline news after a 2006 article in the Smoking Gun contended that the author had exaggerated details of his drug addiction and associated troubles with the law. His fabrications particularly angered Oprah Winfrey, who had chosen “A Million Little Pieces” for her book club the year before. She brought him back on her show to confront him.

Not long after, in 2008, Frey released his debut novel, “Bright Shiny Morning.” The book drew mixed reviews: In the Guardian, Irvine Welsh called it “a beautifully disciplined and weighted novel.” In The Times, David L. Ulin said it was “a terrible book. One of the worst I’ve ever read.”

In 2009, Frey founded Full Fathom Five, a publisher that specializes in young adult fiction.

The 2018 Bad Sex in Fiction prize was awarded at a ceremony in London on Monday. The award was presented by Kim Wilde, the pop star known for her 1981 single “Kids in America.”