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”.
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.
He’s right, of course. And it’s even worse in the blogosphere, where writing isn’t nearly as polished and sublime as in the upper echelons of world literature. I can’t count how many times I’ve read a passage that may as well have been written with a finger dipped in menstrual blood. Honestly, womenfolk, I know you can’t help it, but writing can only ever be subpar when you get your ovaries all over it. Attend me: a properly written paragraph should greet the reader with a flinty gaze that vaguely hints at violence and a square, determined jawline dotted with three-day stubble, not a beaming grin and a giddy hug. The prose should roll around the tongue like the taste of undercooked meat, not comfort food. Evocative of potpourri, breast milk and clean linen, never; gunsmoke, sweat and freshly oiled leather; ahh, that’s the stuff.
But really, you shouldn’t be worrying your pretty little heads over this literary business anyway.