VS Naipaul finds women writers inferior

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VS Naipaul finds women writers inferior

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 07, 2011 12:26 pm

VS Naipaul finds no woman writer his literary match – not even Jane Austen

Nobel laureate says there is no female author whom he considers his equal

Amy Fallon The Guardian, Thursday 2 June 2011


VS Naipaul, no stranger to controversy, has lashed out at female authors, singling out Jane Austen for particular criticism. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe

VS Naipaul, no stranger to literary spats and rows, has done it again. This time, the winner of the Nobel prize for literature has lashed out at female authors, saying there is no woman writer whom he considers his equal – and singling out Jane Austen for particular criticism.

In an interview at the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday about his career, Naipaul, who has been described as the "greatest living writer of English prose", was asked if he considered any woman writer his literary match. He replied: "I don't think so." Of Austen he said he "couldn't possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world".

He felt that women writers were "quite different". He said: "I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me."

The author, who was born in Trinidad, said this was because of women's "sentimentality, the narrow view of the world". "And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too," he said.

He added: "My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh. I don't mean this in any unkind way."

The criticism from the author is unsurprising. Naipaul is no stranger to criticism. In the past Naipaul has criticised India's top female authors for their "banality" on the topic he is best known for writing about, the legacy of British colonialism.

He also had a long-running feud with US travel writer and author Paul Theroux.

Their 30-year friendship came to a sudden end, after Theroux discovered that a book he gave Naipaul had been put on sale for £916. The comments were dismissed by the Writers Guild of Great Britain, which said it would not "waste its breath on them". Literary journalist Alex Clark said: "Is he really saying that writers such as Hilary Mantel, AS Byatt, Iris Murdoch are sentimental or write feminine tosh?"

Literary critic Helen Brown described them as "arrogant, attention-seeking".He should heed the words of George Eliot – a female writer – whose works have had a far more profound impact on world culture than his."

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Re: VS Naipaul finds women writers inferior

Post  sil on Tue Jun 07, 2011 11:42 pm

eddie wrote:The author, who was born in Trinidad, said this was because of women's "sentimentality, the narrow view of the world".
I think he has a narrow view of women... but what do I know about literature...?

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Re: VS Naipaul finds women writers inferior

Post  eddie on Wed Jun 08, 2011 3:52 am

VS Naipaul's attack 'just made me laugh' says Diana Athill

Former publisher rubbished by Naipaul for writing 'feminine tosh' says she is not taking his criticism seriously

Alison Flood guardian.co.uk, Friday 3 June 2011 12.18 BST


VS Naipaul appearing at the Hay festival earlier this week. Photograph: David Levenson/Getty

Award-winning author Diana Athill has dismissed VS Naipaul's claim, made in an interview at the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday, that she writes nothing but "feminine tosh" as laughable.

"It seems very odd. He doesn't realise what a monkey he's making of himself," said the author, 93, who won the Costa biography prize for her memoir of old age, Somewhere Towards The End, and who was awarded an OBE in 2008 for services to literature.

An astonishing outburst from Naipaul earlier this week saw the Nobel laureate, known for his long-running feuds with authors including Paul Theroux (the pair made up at the Hay festival earlier this week) and Derek Walcott, write off all female authors for their "sentimentality [and] narrow view of the world". No woman writer is his literary match, he said, before lashing out specifically at Jane Austen (he "couldn't possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world"), and at Athill, his former editor. "My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh," said Naipaul, before adding, "I don't mean this in any unkind way".

Athill, who was editorial director of the publishing company André Deutsch for 50 years, where she worked with authors including John Updike, Philip Roth, Jean Rhys and Margaret Atwood, as well as Naipaul, was unperturbed by his remarks.

"I was a 'sensitive editor' because I liked his work, I was admiring it. When I stopped admiring him so much I started being 'feminine tosh'," she said this morning. "I can't say it made me feel very bad. It just made me laugh ... I think one should just ignore it, take no notice really."

Naipaul has "always been a testy man and seems to have got testier in old age", said Athill. "I don't think it is worth being taken seriously ... It's sad really because he's a very good writer. Why be such an irritable man?"

It's not the first time the pair have clashed. When Athill told Naipaul that his novel, Guerrillas, did not ring true, the move led, indirectly, to his departure from André Deutsch. And Athill has previously said that, when she needed cheering up, "I used to tell myself: 'At least I'm not married to Vidia.'"

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Re: VS Naipaul finds women writers inferior

Post  eddie on Wed Jun 08, 2011 4:02 am

The Naipaul test: Can you tell an author's sex?

In an interview at the Royal Geographic Society this week, during which VS Naipaul provoked fury by suggesting that women writers are 'sentimental' and 'unequal to me', he also claimed that 'I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not.' Do you?

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 2 June 2011 14.19 BST


Blue for a boy? ... a typewriter. Photograph: Max Oppenheim/Getty

1. “At once, though it was night and the way was lonely, she left the hut and walked to the next village, where there was a hedge of cactus. She brought back leaves of cactus, cut them into strips and hung a strip over every door, every window, every aperture through which an evil spirit might enter the hut. But the midwife said, ‘whatever you do, this boy will eat up his own mother and father.’”

2. “Who am I? And how, I wonder, will this story end? The sun has come up and I am sitting by a window that is foggy with the breath of a life gone by. I’m a sight this morning: two shorts, heavy pants, a scarf wrapped twice around my neck and tucked into a think sweater knitted by my daughter thirty birthdays ago. The thermostat in my room is set as high as it will go, and a smaller space heater sits directly behind me. It clicks and groans and spews hot air like a fairytale dragon, and still my body shivers with a cold that will never go away, a cold that has been eight years in the making.”

3. “But was it really like that? As painful as I remember? Only mildly. Or rather, it was a productive and fructifying pain. Love, thick and dark as Alaga syrup, eased up into that cracked window. I could smell it – taste it – sweet, musty, with an edge of wintergreen in its base – everywhere in that house. It stuck, along with my tongue, to the frosted windowpanes. It coated my chest, along with the salve, and when the flannel came undone in my sleep, the clear, sharp curves of air outlines its presence on my throat. And in the night, when my couching was dry and tough, feet padded into the room, hands repinned the flannel, readjusted the quilt, and rested a moment on my forehead. So when I think of autumn, I think of someone with hands who does not want me to die.”

4. “Mungo drove with verve and dash. They had spent the night in an hotel by the Helford river. He had feared, when Alison insisted on stopping at a chemist in Truro, that she was planning one of her fucking headaches (to be exact a non-fucking headache) but this fear had been groundless. After dinner with Rory, who entertained them during the meal with a description of his life as a milliner, he had, elevated by circumspect consumption of wine, gone up to their room to find that she had bought not, as he supposed, soluble aspirin, but a choice of contraceptives. ‘Which do you prefer?’ Alison presented her offerings. ‘Arousal? Elite? Fiesta?’”

5. “Why had she married him? – For solace, for children. But at first the insomnia coating her brain got in the way of her first aim; and children don’t always come at once. So Amina had found herself dreaming about an undreamable poet’s face and waking with an unspeakable name on her lips. You ask: what did she do about it? I answer: she gritted her teeth and set about putting herself straight. This is what she told herself: ‘You big ungrateful goof, can’t you see who is your husband now? Don’t you know what a husband deserves?’ To avoid fruitless controversy about the correct answers to these questions, let me say that, in my mother’s opinion, a husband deserved unquestioning loyalty, and unreserved, full-hearted love.”

6. “I should know better than to read even as much as a headline in The New York Times; although, as I’ve often pointed out to my students at Bishop Strachan, this newspaper’s use of the semicolon is exemplary. Reagan Declares Firmness on Gulf; Plans Are Unclear Isn’t that a classic? I don’t mean the semicolon; I mean, isn’t that just what the world needs? Unclear firmness! That is the typical American policy: don’t be clear, but be firm!”

7. “Is there a cheese sandwich left? She rummages in the paper bag. No, she says, but there’s a hard-boiled egg. She’s never been this happy before. Everything is fresh again, still to be enacted. Just what the doctor ordered, he says. A bottle of lemonade, a hard-boiled egg, and Thou. He rolls the egg between his palms, cracking the shell, then peeling it away. She watches his mouth, the jaw, the teeth. Beside me singing in the public park, she says. Here’s the salt for it. Thanks. You remembered everything.”

8. “PS in answer to your ‘polite query’, yes, I am still one ... despite your evident contempt I’m feeling quite fine about it, thanks ... twenty is really not that late among young people these days, especially if they’ve decided to make their fellowship with Christ. It was weird that you asked, because I did walk through Hyde Park yesterday and thought of you losing yours to someone you had never met before and never would again. And no. I wasn’t tempted to repeat the incident...”

9. “I have vascular dementia, the doctor told me, and there was some comfort to be had. There’s the slowness of the undoing, which he must have mentioned a dozen times. Also, it’s not as bad as Alzheimer’s, with its mood swings and aggression. If I’m lucky, it might turn out to be somewhat benign. I might not be unhappy – just a dim old biddy in a chair, knowing nothing, expecting nothing. I had asked him to be frank, so I could not complain. Now he was hurrying me out. There were twelve people in his waiting room wanting their turn. In summary, as he helped me into my coat, he gave me the route map: loss of memory, short-and long-term, the disappearance of single words – simple nouns might be the first to go – then language itself, along with balance, and soon after, all motor control, and finally the autonomous nervous system. Bon Voyage!”

10. “A tall, broad-shouldered man came to stand in the doorway, dressed in faded jeans and an untucked tan chamois shirt, his feet shod in moccasins. Maggie could hardly take him in. Brown curly hair, a light stubble of beard, piercing green eyes framed by laugh wrinkles. Cookie halfway to her mouth and uncharacteristically breathless, she admonished herself, Get a grip. He's just another man…”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

***********************************************************************************

Well? How did you get on? Were you able to distinguish the male writers from the female writers?

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Re: VS Naipaul finds women writers inferior

Post  sil on Sat Jun 11, 2011 10:43 pm

No.9 is a woman

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Re: VS Naipaul finds women writers inferior

Post  sil on Mon Jun 13, 2011 11:46 pm

Eddie, I've found it.

I clicked "submit" in the guardian article without having answer "male or female" and it says:
_________________________________________________
You scored 0 out of a possible 10
Awful. What are you, a girl or something? (lol!)

For reference, the novels quoted were:
1 A House for Mr Biswas by VS Naipaul
2 The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
3 The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
4 Harnesssing Peacocks by Mary Wesley
5 Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
6 A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
7 The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
8 On Beauty by Zadie Smith
9 Atonement by Ian McEwan
10 A Forever Mother by Laura Abbot

____________________________________________-

No. 9 was a man Rolling Eyes

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Re: VS Naipaul finds women writers inferior

Post  pinhedz on Tue Jun 14, 2011 12:13 am

The pinhed scores slightly better--but no praise from the test site:

"You scored 5 out of a possible 10

Sloppy thinking. You clearly need to read more books by men."



Last edited by pinhedz on Tue Jun 14, 2011 8:54 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: VS Naipaul finds women writers inferior

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 2:28 am

#9 was the notoriously effeminate Ian McEwan, then.

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Re: VS Naipaul finds women writers inferior

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 8:09 pm

Women writers round on Naipaul

Nobel laureate's remarks about 'inferiority' of female authors provoke furious responses from Keri Hulme and Francine Prose

Alison Flood guardian.co.uk, Monday 13 June 2011 16.07 BST

VS Naipaul has been described as a "misogynist prick" and a "slug" by the Booker prize-winning New Zealand novelist Keri Hulme for his dismissal of female writers.

Earlier this month, in an event at the Royal Geographic Society, the Nobel laureate claimed that "I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me." He criticised women authors for their "sentimentality" and "narrow view of the world", going on to reject Jane Austen for her "sentimental ambitions" and Diana Athill for writing "feminine tosh".

But the reclusive Hulme, who won the Booker for her only novel to date, The Bone People, in 1985, was far from sentimental in her response, calling Naipaul "a misogynist prick whose works are dying". Writing on the New Zealand books site Beattie's Book Blog, she said that Naipaul "accurately foresaw their relevance three decades ago. 'They will not survive me.'"

"As he ages, his nasty behaviours – and judgments – become ever more wince-making. Many thousand women writers both outrank, and will out-survive, this slug," said Hulme.

Hulme's feelings about Naipaul were echoed by the bestselling American author Francine Prose, who has revisited the acclaimed essay Scent of a Woman's Ink: Are women writers really inferior? which she wrote for Harper's Magazine in 1998. Thirteen years ago, Prose explored what she dubbed gynobibliophobia, pointing to Norman Mailer's comments that "the sniffs I get from the ink of the women are always fey, old-hat, Quaintsy Goysy, tiny, too dykily psychotic, crippled, creepish, fashionable, frigid, outer-Baroque, maquillé in mannequin's whimsy, or else bright and stillborn" and that "a good novelist can do without everything but the remnant of his balls".

Then, Prose wrote that "in the future ... the only distinction that will matter will be between good and bad writing". Going back to the topic again today, she said that the Naipaul controversy "has made it clear (in case it needed clarification) that 'before' is 'now'".

"The notion of women's inferiority apparently won't go away. Of course, the idea that Naipaul imagines he is a better writer than Jane Austen would be simply hilarious if the prejudice it reveals weren't still so common and didn't have such a damaging effect on what some of us have chosen to do with our lives," wrote Prose. "I suppose a writer should be happy when a piece she wrote more than 10 years ago seems as fresh and as pertinent as if it had been written yesterday. But in this case, I don't find it a reason for celebration or self-congratulation. Honestly, I'd rather that 'Scent of a Woman's Ink' seemed dated: a period piece about a problem women no longer have."

Perhaps both writers have been taking tips in literary feuds from Christopher Hitchens, himself no stranger to a writerly battle, who told the New York Times that "a really first-rate bust-up must transcend the limits of 'an entertaining side show' and involve playing for high moral and intellectual stakes".

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Re: VS Naipaul finds women writers inferior

Post  pinhedz on Tue Jun 14, 2011 8:55 pm

pinhedz wrote:The pinhed scores slightly better--but no praise from the test site:

"You scored 5 out of a possible 10

Sloppy thinking. You clearly need to read more books by men."

I read all of Hemingway--now what? scratch

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Re: VS Naipaul finds women writers inferior

Post  eddie on Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:45 am

Battle of the authors' sexes continues

Jennifer Weiner complains of gender bias in reviewing, Teddy Wayne argues male writers are worse off than women

Alison Flood

guardian.co.uk, Friday 27 January 2012 13.50 GMT


Weiner v Wayne: The New York Times Book Review, and a cash register Photograph: Getty/New York Times

Male and female authors in America are competing over who has it harder, with bestselling chick lit author Jennifer Weiner arguing the New York Times still pays more attention to male writers, and first-time novelist Teddy Wayne countering that most male authors are at a "financial disadvantage".

Weiner, whose bestselling novels include In Her Shoes, was at the heart of a storm which blew up in 2010 over the New York Times's focus on what the novelist Jodi Picoult described as books by "white male literary darlings". "NYT loves its literary darlings, who tend to be dudes w/MFAs," said Weiner at the time. "In summation: NYT sexist, unfair, loves Gary Shteyngart, hates chick lit, ignores romance." Slate.com crunched the numbers, finding that of the 545 books reviewed by the New York Times between June 2008 and August 2010, 62% were by men, and of the 101 books that received two reviews in that period 71% were by men. Research last February, meanwhile, showed the gender imbalance to be true across newspapers and literary journals on both sides of the Atlantic.

Weiner decided to take a look at the split a year later, finding last week that while things had improved – in 2011, the Times reviewed 254 works of fiction, split roughly 60/40 in favour of male writers – "if you're hoping for equality, the paper's got a long way to go".

"Of the works of fiction whose authors were reviewed twice (either with two full reviews, or review plus roundup) and profiled, one was a woman [Téa Obrecht] and 10 were men," she said. "So if you believe that PEN-prize winning Jennifer Haigh's new book Faith deserved better than a throwaway mention under the heading 'For the Ladies' in a Janet Maslin summer beach-book round-up … or if you notice that Tom Perrotta got two reviews and a profile within three days of publication, while Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus received a single review, three weeks after its pub date … or if you wonder why memoirist Meghan O'Rourke is posing in a Missoni sweater in T Style Magazine, while novelist Gary Shteyngart talks technology ... Speak up."

As Weiner braced herself for what she called the "inevitable 'your books suck/you're jealous'" feedback, her points were attacked by Wayne in a piece for Salon entitled "The agony of the male novelist", in which he claimed that "for the majority of male literary authors — excluding the upper echelon of Franzen, Jeffrey Eugenides, Don DeLillo and their ilk, plus a few younger writers like Chad Harbach who have scored much-ballyhooed advances — it's actually harder than it is for women to carve out a financially stable writing career".

Women, said Wayne, buy around two-thirds of all books and 80% of fiction. They belong more frequently to book clubs, which are skewed towards female authors writing about female experiences, "the publishing industry has noticed this trend in reading habits", and it's the "midlist male author who writes about males" who is suffering.

"Not only will you not get reviewed in the Times, but you won't get reviewed in the women's magazines that drive sales, like People and O, the Oprah Magazine. Book clubs will ignore you. Barnes & Noble will relegate you to the back shelves. Your publisher won't give you much support — if it even publishes your book in the first place. As a book-editor friend once admitted to me, 'When we buy a debut novel by a man, we view it as taking a real chance'," said Wayne. "Male authors are somewhat like male porn stars: getting work, but outearned and outnumbered by their female counterparts, who are in far greater demand from the audience (for very different reasons)."

Weiner, he said, is "doing just fine". She is part of the "literary 1%", he continued, quoting Brad Pitt in the film Moneyball, and has "uptown problems, which aren't really problems at all".

But the truth, responded Weiner on Twitter, is that "being a novelist is hard for anyone – male or female. You don't get to quit your day job. I had one until I'd published two books. But if you're a (rare and lucky) male author, you can hit the jackpot - critical acclaim + great sales – that still eludes your sisters."

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