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V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

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V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby kurt_w » Wed Jun 08, 2011 8:52 am

It's bad enough to make a public spectacle of your own close-mindedness. Naipaul's case is worse, because he demonstrates a yawning chasm of ignorance in his own field.

I suppose it's possible to become a great writer while arbitrarily avoiding reading, appreciating, or learning anything from the writings of half of the human race. But why would you want to do that?

Naipaul has a real problem with pride and prejudice.
Last edited by kurt_w on Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: V.S. Naipul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Huckleby » Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:07 am

Not sure why you would call him "ignorant."

Is it V.S. Naipaul's sin to say that female writers are different from males? No, the author of that article makes the same point.

If V.S. Naipual, or anyone else, expressed a preference for female authors, would that be offensive?

I do dislike V.S. Naipaul's mentality. I respect people who can see the value in a wide range of genre's and tastes, without just rejecting art or entertainment because they don't appreciate it. But very, very few people are trully broadminded, unfortunately. We live in a snarky culture, where putting-down other tastes demonstrates your own good taste.

V.S Naipaul is a great artist. I know one woman who won't read him because of his sexist reputation. She won't read Saul Bellows, either, who is a great author but doesn't have strong female characters. In fact, come to think of it, she reads almost exclusively female authors. She is really smart, a self-taught literature lover, and old school feminist. Is she so different from Naipaul?
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby kurt_w » Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:30 am

By "ignorant" I mean that he doesn't seem to know much about women writers, many of whom don't fit his silly caricatures.

Being a great artist isn't incompatible with being ignorant (or a jerk). It does leave one with the question of whether Naipaul's writing could be even better if he were more open-minded about reading the works of other writers.
Last edited by kurt_w on Wed Jun 08, 2011 12:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Marvell » Wed Jun 08, 2011 12:12 pm

I would argue that Jane Austen alone renders Naipul's opinion ridiculous to anyone with half a brain.

Add in Gertrude Stein, Ursula K. LeGuinn, Zora Neale Hurston and Paulene Kael (to pick just the obvious), and one can reasonably conclude that he's just a total ass.

But hey - you could say the same thing about Norman Mailer.

So I will. Norman Mailer, you're a total ass.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby wallrock » Wed Jun 08, 2011 1:51 pm

While I don't believe Naipaul's claim that no female author could be his equal, I did score 8 of 10 on the Guardian's Naipaul Test.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Huckleby » Wed Jun 08, 2011 5:56 pm

I don't find Naipaul's views extreme. He isn't saying that there aren't very good female writers. He thinks the very best writers have been men, and he puts himself in the top echelon. These are defensible positions.

It is not so uncommon to consider Jane Austen a writer of sentimental chick-lit.

I think his outlook is foolish. He's got a negative attitude towards female sensibilities which he doesn't recognize as a limitation within himself.

My main point is that tribalism is widespread. Naipaul sticks out like an ugly sour thumb because he is so confrontational and open about his views, and his brand of tribalism is unfashionable.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Huckleby » Wed Jun 08, 2011 6:01 pm

Marvell wrote: Add in Gertrude Stein, Ursula K. LeGuinn, Zora Neale Hurston and Paulene Kael (to pick just the obvious), and one can reasonably conclude that he's just a total ass.


Ya, but many people don't consider these writers in the same league as Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Melville .... or even Nabokov, Conrad, Joyce.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Marvell » Wed Jun 08, 2011 9:52 pm

Huckleby wrote:It is not so uncommon to consider Jane Austen a writer of sentimental chick-lit.


It is not so uncommon for people to be morons.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Huckleby » Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:22 pm

It's a question of taste & sensibility, not intelligence or correctness.

There are plenty of smart people who are bored by Faulkner or Salman Rushdie.

I'm in a bookclub, and I can't remember a book that somebody didn't hate. Rarely does more than 2/3 of the group like any given book.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby peripat » Thu Jun 09, 2011 3:53 am

Also he is boring. I'd rather read Jhumpa Lahirii- you know, Pulizer- Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby kurt_w » Thu Jun 09, 2011 6:09 am

Huckleby wrote:It's a question of taste & sensibility, not intelligence or correctness.

There are plenty of smart people who are bored by Faulkner or Salman Rushdie.

I'm in a bookclub, and I can't remember a book that somebody didn't hate. Rarely does more than 2/3 of the group like any given book.


It's not about "intelligence". I didn't say Naipaul is stupid, I said he's ignorant and close-minded.

It's also not about "correct taste". There's nothing wrong with differences of opinion about great books, and there's nothing wrong with having an all-male (or all-female) list of your own favorite writers. But Naipaul goes further, making ridiculous sweeping statements that flat out dismiss the work of all women writers, as a class. Like this:

"inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too"

What the hell does that even mean? Scratch that, I don't really care what fatuous ideas about gender, "mastery", and literature Naipaul was entertaining when he said that.

I'm not saying he's not a great writer (though I'd vehemently disagree with the "best living writer in English" claim) and I'm not saying he's stupid, nor am I saying that it's obligatory to like the writings of women writers X, Y, and Z.

But he sure does come across as ignorant. He's unaware of the vast range in style and voice among women writers. He doesn't know that there are women writers out there whom he could learn something from (yes, even someone at the top of their field can learn a trick or two from others). And he protects his own ignorance by shielding it behind silly, outdated theories about domesticity and women's subordinate role (which apparently means that they can't be great writers).

As for the "jerk" thing, note how he insults his own editor ("when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh") and then casually twists the knife ("I don’t mean this in any unkind way.")

No problem, Naipaul. When I say you're an ignorant jerk, please don't take offense -- I don't mean it in any unkind way.

Really.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Huckleby » Thu Jun 09, 2011 8:53 am

kurt_w wrote: There's nothing wrong with differences of opinion about great books, and there's nothing wrong with having an all-male (or all-female) list of your own favorite writers.

Here's where I strongly disagree. Maybe tribalism and narrowness are not immoral or even jerky, but I sure hate these qualities. The "Room of One's Own" bookstore devotee is more sympathetic than the male chauvenist, afterall women were left-out of education for centuries and are just getting their chance the last century or two, but at heart the narrow femminist is just as foolish and limited as Naipaul.

kurt_w wrote: But Naipaul goes further, making ridiculous sweeping statements that flat out dismiss the work of all women writers, as a class.

He is an ass. But also he is enjoying playing the gadfly, tweeking people.

kurt_w wrote:But he sure does come across as ignorant. He's unaware of the vast range in style and voice among women writers.
It almost doesn't matter, but I doubt Naipaul is actually ignorant, I bet he reads widely, just like feminists are not ignorant of the value of the dead white male authors.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Marvell » Thu Jun 09, 2011 9:18 am

Huckleby wrote:It's a question of taste & sensibility, not intelligence or correctness.


Bullshit.

When someone dismisses English literature's most pitiless and clear-eyed student of human psychology since Shakespeare as 'sentimental,' once can reasonably take everything else that person says on the topic as the witless brayings of a philistine.

One can aknowledge the inherently subjective aspect of questions of relative value while still rejecting Sarah Palin-esque lectures on literary history. Such as our boy Naipaul's yammerings.

As with everything in life, talk is cheap. Come strong with the justification for your critical posturing or don't come at all.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Huckleby » Thu Jun 09, 2011 9:56 am

I don't think V.S. Naipaul is witless, philistine or Sarah Palin-esque. Seems like an unlikely profile for a nobel prize winning author that some learned folks consider the greatest author of our time.

Marvell wrote: Come strong with the justification for your critical posturing or don't come at all.
Oh, I expect Naipaul could write an incisive essay justifying why Austen should be considered beneath the top tier of writers. Would that change anything?

Most "intellectual" arguments are just a contest to assemble clever phrases and justifications for a choice premade at an emotional level.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Marvell » Thu Jun 09, 2011 10:50 am

Man, you're even more of a post-modernist than I am.

I get what you're saying, but I disagree. In college a conservative acquaintance of mine wrote an essay for one of the various campus literary magazines that argued that the only authentic rock and roll came from the USA. It was an elegantly written piece, deeply felt, and, on the face of it, intellectually absurd.

I was just thinking of another useful comparison - a while back V. J. Singh blew a gasket about the prospect of having women join the PGA, and said a bunch of ignorant, sexist shit. No one disputes the guy is still a great golfer; he's just not much of social theorist when it comes to golf.

Same with Naipul. Just because he has his head up his ass on a topic related to literature doesn't mean he can't write up a storm.
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