Thursday, June 9, 2011

V. S. Naipaul

That's not versus, those are his initials.

Anyway, Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipaul has apparently caused something of a kerfuffle by saying no woman is his writing equal, and that all women write sentimental, banal "feminine tosh", in part because they're not masters of the house.

A lot of women especially seem to be up in arms about this, but speaking as a person in possession of my own personal vagina, I have to say it feels a bit like the headline here is "one 79 year old writer makes sexist and self-aggrandizing remarks". I mean, he's one guy, and an older gentleman at that. I certainly don't see this as a pervasive sentiment. A lot of my favorite magazines have female editors and publish many excellent female authors. You can hardly throw a rock in science fiction without hitting a piece by Cat Rambo and as far as I'm concerned that's great. I've never read Mr. Naipaul's work, but the nobel committee tends to be pretty reliable about these sorts of things, so I trust he does have cracking good prose. His remarks seem to me like he appreciates a particular type of narrative, full of active characters who are masters of their own houses, and has little patience for much else. That's fine, really, that's his prerogative. It feels like there's a bit of a tautology there- women's fiction is banal and unengaging because it doesn't deal with sufficiently masculine issues.

For what it's worth, I think he's wrong on several counts. 1. That there aren't women out there writing unsentimental fiction with solid prose. 2. That sentimental fiction about the issues around not being the master of one's own house is by definition banal and not as good. 3. That women are never actually masters of the house. And so on.

But he gets to have an opinion and I get to disagree with him. That's how a free and open exchange of ideas works.

(My favorite quote of the article is as follows: "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." Here's to the kindest way you can mean it.)

Edit: and here is a link to the editor's response. Good to see she's not terribly hurt by it either.

1 comment:

  1. Meh, just sounds like an instigator. Hope he's talented. He wouldn't be the first talent to also be a complete jackass.