I'll say right up front that Naipaul is an idiot for saying something so patently in error. It almost falls under the heading "When good authors do bad things".
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *VS Naipaul finds no woman writer his literary match – not even Jane Austen
Nobel laureate says there is no female author whom he considers his equal
by Amy Fallon
VS Naipaul, no stranger to controversy, has lashed out at female authors, singling out Jane Austen for particular criticism. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe
VS Naipaul, no stranger to literary spats and rows, has done it again. This time, the winner of the Nobel prize for literature has lashed out at female authors, saying there is no woman writer whom he considers his equal – and singling out Jane Austen for particular criticism.
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 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."
(more) http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jun/02/vs-naipaul-jane-austen-women-writersAnd a response:VS Naipaul's attack 'just made me laugh' says Diana Athill
Former publisher rubbished by Naipaul for writing 'feminine tosh' says she is not taking his criticism seriously
by Alison Flood
Award-winning author Diana Athill has dismissed VS Naipaul's claim, made in an interview at the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday, that she writes nothing but "feminine tosh" as laughable.
"It seems very odd. He doesn't realise what a monkey he's making of himself," said the author, 93, who won the Costa biography prize for her memoir of old age, Somewhere Towards The End, and who was awarded an OBE in 2008 for services to literature.
An astonishing outburst from Naipaul earlier this week saw the Nobel laureate, known for his long-running feuds with authors including Paul Theroux (the pair made up at the Hay festival earlier this week) and Derek Walcott, write off all female authors for their "sentimentality [and] narrow view of the world". No woman writer is his literary match, he said, before lashing out specifically at Jane Austen (he "couldn't possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world"), and at Athill, his former editor. "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," said Naipaul, before adding, "I don't mean this in any unkind way".
Athill, who was editorial director of the publishing company André Deutsch for 50 years, where she worked with authors including John Updike, Philip Roth, Jean Rhys and Margaret Atwood, as well as Naipaul, was unperturbed by his remarks.
"I was a 'sensitive editor' because I liked his work, I was admiring it. When I stopped admiring him so much I started being 'feminine tosh'," she said this morning. "I can't say it made me feel very bad. It just made me laugh ... I think one should just ignore it, take no notice really."