Male Novelist Can Always Spot Female Writers By How Much They Suck

Illustration for article titled Male Novelist Can Always Spot Female Writers By How Much They Suck

Nobel Prize-winning novelist V.S. Naipaul has helpfully explained why women will never be great writers like him. It's because they're not "masters of a house."


Naipaul shared his insights with the London Evening Standard, saying, "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 reason: a lady-writer will betray her "sentimentality, the narrow view of the world." Also, "inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too." It's not clear what Naipaul thinks about gay ladies or ladies who live alone, but it is clear how he feels about his former editor (Diana Athill, perhaps):

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.

No offense! None of this is entirely surprising coming from Naipaul, whose authorized biography revealed his violence toward his mistress, cruelty to his wife, and general narcissism. Paul Theroux once wrote that Naipaul in the nineties was "an excellent candidate for anger management classes, sensitivity training, psychotherapy, marriage guidance, grief counselling and driving lessons –- none of which he pursued."

Despite the unreliability of the source, it's worth questioning one of the basic premises of Naipaul's argument — can readers, in fact, tell the difference between men's and women's writing? The Guardian has set up a quiz to determine just that — despite my two writing degrees, I scored an unimpressive six out of ten. No word on whether Naipaul has yet taken the quiz. Another popular test is The Gender Genie, which takes in chunks of user-submitted text and tries to guess the gender of the writer. According to the Genie, the author of this post was a man.

'Women Writers Are Different, I Can Tell, They Are Unequal To Me' [London Evening Standard]
The Naipaul Test: Can You Tell An Author's Sex? [Guardian]



I agree thoroughly, and it's unfortunately institutionalized. My undergrad experience in creative writing was a soul-crusher. We'd read short stories and excerpts from "manly" writers Don DeLillo and Hemingway, and they'd all nod approvingly and praise the "edginess." I'd contribute Joyce Carol Oates, and they all start wondering aloud, "Who raped her?" Because a female writer who critically and intimately explores violence is obviously a victim of something. I wanted to bludgeon those privileged, misogynist hipsters to death with their Moleskins.