Suspend Your Disbelief

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"She is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing, too."


You have probably heard by now that V. S. Naipaul issued a broad-handed diss to women writers, claiming no female writer could be his equal:

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 added: “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.”

In response, the Guardian puts Naipaul (and you) to the test with a 10-question quiz. For example, can you tell whether this passage is by a man or a woman?

“A tall, broad-shouldered man came to stand in the doorway, dressed in faded jeans and an untucked tan chamois shirt, his feet shod in moccasins. Maggie could hardly take him in. Brown curly hair, a light stubble of beard, piercing green eyes framed by laugh wrinkles. Cookie halfway to her mouth and uncharacteristically breathless, she admonished herself, Get a grip. He’s just another man…”

Take the quiz, if only for the quips it displays when revealing your score. (No, I’m not telling.)

Meanwhile, the L.A. Times highlights a German artist who switches the genders on book covers, shaking up our gender expectations with titles like A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman, Mr. Dalloway, and Woman and Superwoman. Visit the Times’s site for pictures of her work, including covers. I wonder what Naipaul would think about Dona Quixote?

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