V S Naipaul’s ‘vainglorious and conceited’ comments on women’s writing

Kingston MA Publishing student Alice Saggers is ‘enraged’ by V S Naipaul’s ‘vainglorious and conceited comments’ about women’s writing. In a post for The Old Lemon blog, Alice says:

Why is Naipaul (or any other successful male writer, as he seems to imply) incapable of writing about [themes such as the family, home, emotion and marriage] or portraying ‘a sentimental sense’? Is it because he believes that male writers are too busy putting the world to rights by producing novels dealing with monumental events of history, empire-building, colonialism and the ‘big’ questions of religion and philosophy, to concern themselves with domestic trivialities and emotion? Herein lies the root of my intense angst; the constant devaluing and criticism levelled at what has broadly become known as ‘domestic fiction.’ This issue is raised every year when activity surrounding the Orange Prize for Fiction (a literary award given only to women writers, judged by women) begins to appear in the press. It seems particularly pertinent to discuss the issue now – Granta have just published their first exclusively female edition, The F-Word, focusing on ‘feminism, women and power,’ meanwhile the death knell is sounding for women’s hardbacks (see Emily Rhodes fantastic article for The Spectator here) but despite this, we are told that the Orange Prize nominees far outsell the Booker Prize shortlist.  Confusing? Immensely. What is clear, however, is that feminist issues in literature, far from being put to bed in the 1970s, are still bubbling away under the surface. The very fact that we continue to discuss this seemingly archaic issue, that opinions like Naipaul’s continue to exist and attract agreement, demonstrates that women writers are still struggling to be regarded equal to their male counterparts, irregardless of subject matter, book sales or prizes won. Furthermore, I think it is an issue that the book industry, despite being broadly female-dominated (it is estimated that 80% of people working in publishing are women) does little to change.

Read more about Naipaul’s comments in The Bookseller article Women writers “unequal to me” says V S Naipaul. Read Alice’s full article at The Old Lemon.


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