I don’t even know where to begin, the subject is so ridiculous, and yet brain boiling at the same time. Mr. Naipaul believes he is a better writer than Jane Austen, and that he can ‘sniff’ out whether a book has been penned by a woman. He believes he is a better writer than any and every woman who ever put words on paper. He is an idiot. So was Norman Mailer, but we already knew that. The comments Mailer made about female authors are disgusting, although rather entertaining prose. Sure, they are considered good if not great writers. But as people, they are coarse, ego driven nitwits who think themselves better than most people, not just women. I bet if Mailer were alive and asked what male writer is his equal, he’d say none. I would like to hear the same question put to Naipaul–how many authors of the same sex would he consider as good as if not better than he? Egos tend to be equal opportunity critics.
All that nonsense aside, there has always been and apparently still is, a belief that women are inferior writers. I’ve seen that played out in the crime fiction world. Especially in the US. Equal talents starting at the same time writing and publishing, within the same genre–hard boiled–the men are pushed and promoted more, and they gain more readership, sales, and movie rights. This in no way denigrates the male writers–they are brilliant. But so are the women. They aren’t viewed as such. Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, are familiar names, even to those who aren’t crime fiction lovers. Laura Lippman, Jan Burke, are not–although if any female is making inroads it’s Lippman, she’s been able to promote her work on some major TV shows.
I find British woman mystery writers are respected as equals, if not a bit more revered. Rendell, P. D, James, Val McDermid are household names there. And they boast the most popular mystery writer of all time, Agatha Christie. Why this is so, I can’t say. Are the British more civilized in thought? More progressive, less cowboy than the US? We do have a John Wayne mentality here, one that says a man is a man and a woman a woman and never equal they will be. I mean, women still make significantly less per hour than men. Women are expected to do two jobs, one outside, one at home. And yet, they are still the weaker sex. And if they take a man’s spot, and aren’t ‘attractive’ enough, they’re called various and sundry names for daring to try to compete in a man’s world.
Our country was finally ready to elect a man of color–but not a woman. I doubt if I’ll live to see a woman in the White House.
This cultural war extends itself to the publishing world, whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not. Less women are published, are commercial successes, (depending on genre–I have no doubt the romance field would be the opposite,) and are respected by critics and the public. I wish this were not the case, it should have changed by now. And I believe inroads have been made, just not enough.
Here’s the article from Quill and Quire
And here’s a fuller quote from Booker Prize winner, Keri Hulme.