“If a writer doesn’t generate hostility, he is dead. …Writers should provoke disagreement.” – V.S. Naipaul. Naipaul is something of a master craftsman in putting down rivals, the art of invidious comparison, and the guile of over-the-top self adulation. It apparently is a practice that goes back to Marlowe and Shakespeare. Naipaul has been expanding that tradition, but in a frightful manner; that does seem to mask that he is a most boring, conservative writer, yet can write the most perfect prose with near miraculous syntax in the tradition of say, the Academie Francaise. In another sense, it seems to be the way the literary world keeps itself in the news….
William Langley:His claim … female writers were doomed to inferiority by their “sentimental” attitudes and “narrow view of the world” certainly did the trick. But only to the extent that at 78 -a cranky old man grown out of an even crankier young one -it was almost expected of him. He boasted the works of the greatest female novelists were “unequal” to his own efforts, and dismissed his celebrated former publisher, the saintly nonagenarian Diana Athill, as a writer of “feminine tosh.” Read More:http://www.nationalpost.com/news/Nobel+winning+chauvinist/4903089/story.html
There has always been something of the white man’s pet in Naipaul; someone on a short leash who is willing to lick the bowl clean for a seat on the bus, an entrance to “good” society as long as the guard dog continues to espouse patriarchy, misogyny and racism under the pretext of not being politically correct; albeit in some of the most beautifully constructed sentences ever committed to paper. But, this puncturing of liberal pieties, is it often not like an adolescent mawing on the hand that feeds him?
Evidently, Naipaul presents the liberal for the most part, literary establishment with something of a dilemma to resolve. Useful while he rendered service, he seems to be ready to be flushed; “he had some good ideas, but he went too far” refrain. Or, as A.N. Wilson has remarked, for Naipaul, it was a self protective decision to turn himself into a monster. In any event, there is something comic, cinema noir even bedroom farcical about Naipaul; even his monster persona is more on the lines of “Heykel” in Chaplin’s Great Dictator that a true and tested evil. Despite all the cleverness with words, is he just a lightweight, perhaps depressive, clearly self-hating individual desperate for escape? This inability for anyone to ever meet expectations raises the issue.
It can be inferred that Naipaul has almost a pathological need to be conspicuous and protect and enhance his status. Reading Naipaul is high culture; he is a leisure class habit who is at the conjunction of the relationship between class status, private property and social inequality; in other words a spoke in the wheel of consumerism and Naipaul’s corrosive broadsides are just a reflection on the need to maintain and uphold status providing the motivational framework that establishes the dynamic for invidious comparisons among persons,nations and so on that maintain the idea of status hierarchy. Joseph Heath in his study of Thorstein Veblen provides a comprehensive analysis in which cultural products like Naipaul’s, geared for the higher strata of the food chain, fit into the overall system, which means there will always have to be people to be dissed and marginalized:
The predatory character of the upper class is reflected in the fact that it is not only exempt from any “industrial” employment, but is positively barred from it. This produces a sort of transvaluation of values, in which the useless becomes celebrated, precisely because it serves as sign that one is a member of the dominant class – hence the social significance of leisure. Of course, the instinct of workmanship is never entirely
extinguished. Once the predatory class is sufficiently entrenched, fewer opportunities present themselves for displays of prowess. Thus this class invents for itself new, labor-intensive activities, which may involve great effort and skill, but which are demarcated from the activities of the laboring classes by virtue of being explicitly futile in their aim. Sport is the most obvious example, but more controversially, Veblen also includes under this rubric religious observances, etiquette, esoteric learning (such as classical languages), aesthetic appreciation, “domestic music,” and a variety of other activities (1899, 45). Hence the perverse spectacle of the best (if not necessarily the brightest) applying themselves with boundless energy and selfless commitment, developing advanced competencies in activities that have absolutely no redeeming social value. The term “leisure class” is, in this respect, somewhat misleading, since members of this class often find their lives to be just as hectic and demanding as those of the laboring classes. This is why Veblen describes leisure, not as mere “indolence,” but as a “performance”(1899, 58). (For example, he observes that, “good breeding requires time, application and expense”[1899, 49]).Read More:http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~jheath/veblen.pdf
From the Opinioness of the World-Megan Kearns- ( http://opinionessoftheworld.com/):Sexism saturates society. When we hear and see so much misogyny, people often become anesthetized, ignoring it. Perhaps it’s part of the reason so many women and men think we’ve already achieved gender equity and parity.
Going further, statements and sentiments like Naipaul’s feed into the misogyny machine that churns out crap telling women they are lesser than men: less significant, less powerful, less valuable. It stifles women, overtly and covertly telling men what they have to say carries far more weight than women’s views. In a perfect world, only the quality of writing or a compelling story would matter, not a writer’s gender. But with asshole chauvinist creeps like Naipaul spewing sexism, it proves we still have a long way to go. Read More:http://opinionessoftheworld.com/2011/06/07/vs-naipauls-sexist-comments-on-gender-and-female-writers/
A.N. Wilson: Yet reactions to it have been adverse – and principally, it seems, because critics have struggled to find in the great writer the material for a clichéd idea of an ideal husband. How could such a masterly writer turn out to be such a monster? No doubt it is upsetting when Naipaul admits to French a scene of terrible violence with his Argentinian mistress, Margaret Gooding, during which – having discovered that she had been unfaithful to him, “I was very violent with her for two days; I was very violent with her for two days with my hand; my hand began to hurt . . . . She didn’t mind it at all. She thought of it in terms of my passion for her”. She stayed with him for a quarter of a century.
No doubt Naipaul wanted this told – the violence and the infidelity. He claims that he hastened his wife’s death by telling a journalist that in younger days – when Pat had been supporting him in poverty by working as a teacher – he had been “a great prostitutes man”. (Do we believe this bluff claim to be one of the lads? How was it paid for at this period of abject indigence? When he took up with Margaret Gooding in 1972, she complained about premature ejaculation; he seemed all but inexperienced. In Magic Seeds, 2004, he wrote, “The fact is all sexual intimacy is distasteful to me. I’ve always considered my low sexual energy as a kind of freedom”.) And although he says that he has never read his wife’s painful diaries, with their aching sense of frustration and rejection, he obviously wanted them to become public knowledge. “Doctored truth is not truth”, Naipaul said; “I think the completeness of the record is what matters.”
Naipaul, like Tolstoy and Evelyn Waugh, has made the self-protective decision to turn himself into a monster. Of course, the women suffered. And of course Naipaul has always gone in for saying and writing calculatedly offensive things. “Like monkeys pleading for evolution, each claiming to be whiter than the other, Indians and Negroes appeal to the unacknowledged white audience to see how much they despise each other” (The Middle Passage); “I am beginning to feel more and more that women are trivial-minded, incapable of analysing or even seeing their motives”. Nor was this habit of frankness solely attributable to old-man grumpiness. As an undergraduate, condemned to lodge in what he considered a slum with some cousins during an Oxford vacation, he wrote, “I am years and ages away from these people . . . . I find their English coarse and acidulous”. Read More:http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/the_tls/article3978845.ece