It is getting harder to tell men from women writers, as males have been so thoroughly feminized over the last couple of decades. Still, Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul is correct when he states the following: “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.” In general, you can indeed tell right away if what you’re reading was penned by a man or a woman. On the whole, the best writers have always been men, still are. I excerpt here from “The Silly Sex?,” in which I was way to kind:
Since 1950, women have won only five Nobels in literature. And some of those are questionable. How can one put Toni Morrison into the literary company of Patrick White, Albert Camus, and Isaac Bashevis Singer? In past years, the literature prize went to authors of the caliber of J. M. Coetzee, Günter Grass, and V.S. Naipaul. But last year, Austrian writer Elfriede Jelinek was awarded the literature prize. I’m not suggesting the grumpy Jelinek is a fraud like Guatemalan leftist and Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu. Some of Jelinek’s dusty works, translated crudely into English, showcase some skill (if one can stomach the contrived subject matter). However, unlike her male predecessors, she is better known for politically correct posturing than for penning memorable works of literature.
Naipaul fingers women’s “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world … that comes over in her writing too.” True. Sentimentality, moreover, accounts for why women (including those with the Y chromosome) are wont to misplace compassion. If you can’t think clearly, your feelings tend to be muddled and flimsy; your sense of justice is skewed too.
Mundane, mainstream media are furious with Naipaul. This Via NPR:
Alex Clark, a literary journalist, said: “It’s absurd. I suspect VS Naipaul thinks that there isn’t anyone who is his equal. Is he really saying that writers such as Hilary Mantel, A S Byatt, Iris Murdoch are sentimental or write feminine tosh?”
YES! When Vladimir Nabokov, Patrick White and Isaac Bashevis Singer died, I stopped reading novels (other than those of a friend who writes mystery).
As for non-fiction, Ann Coulter (and this writer) excepted, where is the woman who writes a strong, witty, wickedly funny column? Nowhere. Sure, I like Diana West a lot, but even she suffers from that singularly female proclivity to fixate obsessively on one issue only: Islam this; Islam that. On and on. All terribly important, but it can get repetitive. And that’s another thing: Non-fiction female writers cleave to a couple of easy, oft-charged subjects. Most steer clear of economics. (How many Amity Shlaes are there?) They simply don’t seem to have a wide array of interests. (I’ve covered Ann Coulter’s awful acolytes in many a blog post, “The Republican Tart Trust” is one.)
I’ll tell you what I’ve discovered, though: men generally prefer women who’re sentimental and unhinged, so long as they don’t have a better head than they do.
UPDATE I (June 3): Cross-posted on Facebook:
Has any of my Hebrew-speaking readers read Shmuel Yosef Agnon? Pure genius. Better than Naipaul. He was, of course, widely translated, as is all Hebrew literature. A translation would not do justice to Agnon’s use of the Hebrew language. But this was required reading when I was growing up. The current crop of Hebrew writers is as bad as their English, stream-of-consciousness counterparts.
Agnon was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1966, well before honoring females, however forgettable, became the rule.
UPDATE II: Myron, Ayn rand was one of the greatest essayists, showcasing a brilliant, unparalleled capacity to development a logical argument. But one would be less than honest as a writer—and fall into sycophancy—if one failed to mention that her style was a little dour, lacking in any humor. The classical liberal philosopher DAVID CONWAY alludes to this fact here.
UPDATE III: Rob, I do think Brookner is a genius. I devour her books. I discussed her with Derb, who, in my opinion, has mistaken her subject matter—the utter aloneness of a certain kind of character—for some sort of feminine preoccupation. However, Brookner has written equally of males in this predicament. I ventured that because our Derb is such a suave, confident gentleman, he does not empathize with the kind of person who is as alone as Brookner’s protagonists are. Needles to say, I do.