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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

VS Naipaul isn’t just a sexist pig, he’s blindered to his own privilege

Gotta love what author V.S. Naipaul thinks of women writers (via the Guardian’s Books blog):

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

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”.

Echidne of the Snakes points out at her glorious blog how wrong Naipaul is about Austen’s sentimentality with a few choice quotes from the writer’s work:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them.

A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.

Nothing amuses me more than the easy manner with which everybody settles the abundance of those who have a great deal less than themselves.

For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?

We met Dr. Hall in such deep mourning that either his mother, his wife, or himself must be dead.

In all the important preparations of the mind she was complete: being prepared for matrimony by an hatred of home, restraint, and tranquillity; by the misery of disappointed affection, and contempt of the man she was to marry.

But I actually find this the most telling bit in the Guardian piece:

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.

Naipaul doesn’t think his view of the world — or any man’s view of the world — is narrow!

Here is the first problem with overcoming misogyny in pop culture, in all the storytelling we all enjoy: men have to acknowledge that their perspective isn’t the neutral, objective one, and entirely free of prejudice and bias.

Because it isn’t. It’s just that men have internalized the notion that their viewpoint is the “normal” default.

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