Monday, June 06, 2011

Naipaul Thinks He’s Better Than Austen: Why Are You Surprised?

Nobel Prize-winning author VS Naipaul riled readers the world over last week when he told the Royal Geographic Society that there was no woman writer who could match his masterful prose. From The Guardian:
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.”
What was surprising about this outcry was the stated surprise. Naipaul’s misogyny is well known; even documented. And, anyway, argues Susan Cheever at The Daily Beast, who cares?
Talent is no indicator of character. A good writer is not automatically a good person or a good teacher or even a particularly good thinker. Faulkner famously told his daughter her feelings didn't matter because "no one remembers Shakespeare's child." Was Charles Dickens a great husband? Was Edith Wharton a good friend? Do we care? Bad men write good novels and so, alas, do bad women. I've known a lot of writers in my life and I can testify to the fact that their writing often seems to have been written by someone else -- some kinder, empathic person who has taken up residence in their bodies.


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