Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Egan-Naipaul Smackdown

V.S. Naipaul was asked the other day whether he considered any woman writer his "literary match". His simple and typical answer was "No." Asked if that opinion included, say, Jane Austen, he said that all women writers were doomed to inferiority (compared to him) because of their "sentimentality."

Pretty amusing stuff.

Even more amusing was Jennifer Egan's (of current Goon Squad fame) response when reached by phone by the WSJ:

These comments are a reminder of what we all know. If someone is a perceptive, nuanced writer, it does not mean that the person, as a perceiver of the world, manifests the same qualities. Reading those comments you have no interest in engaging in this person’s sensibility. You wouldn’t think this person has anything to reveal. But as a writer he’s much more than that, so that contradiction is interesting. To condemn these comments gives them more weight, endows them with more authority. They just sound like one’s man cranky, outmoded point of view


Christian Lindke said...

We currently live in a world where the most "Heinleinesque" -- and I mean that as a huge compliment -- SF is being written by a woman and where tear jerking sentimentalist "faux memoirs" is being written by men.

We are so far beyond questioning whether women can be the literary match of men that the conversation itself is ludicrous.

His comments regarding Austen are so beneath consideration as to be ludicrous. His lack of appreciation for her prose demonstrates that while he may be "the greatest living writer of English prose," he is far from the most perceptive or critical reader.

Saying Austen is too sentimental is like saying Shakespeare is too sentimental.

To give Naipaul some slack...who asked this question? Who is this this reporter who needs to record a salvo in the "literary superior sex" wars?

David Chute said...

Heinleinesque woman is...?

Tulkinghorn said...

Of Diana Athill, beloved editor and publisher (whose recent memoirs, written and published when she was in her 90s, got the National Book Critics Circle Award) Naipaul said:

"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."

Athill said recently that when she needed cheering up, "I used to tell myself: 'At least I'm not married to Vidia.'