Women writers: A load of old tosh?

V.S Naipaul, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, has caused a bit of a stir by saying there is no woman writer that he considers his equal.

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.

Really? He also states that he can:

read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not.

The Guardian UK has devised a test to see if you too can work out whether the writer is male or female.  Try it out here.  Happily I only scored 4 out of 10 and feel vindicated that Naipaul is completely wrong.

It is an interesting subject however, and reminds me of reading The woman who walked into doors by Roddy Doyle, and being so impressed that a male writer could get inside the head of a woman so convincingly. Since this revelation I have come to the conclusion that a good writer can get into the head of anyone, regardless of sex, race, class or whatever.  What do you think?

What were you reading when …

cover Merely stretching out a hand towards certain books on my shelves can pull me back to a particular time and  place. There’s A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, the first book I read in New Zealand. And Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore takes me back to a miserable trip round the South Island with my daughter and her newly-ex boyfriend. Now I have an earthquake book: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

Freedom saved my life.  Not in a bullet proof vest way, but as an escape from all things earthquake. I read it by torchlight the first night and to the thrum of the generator  for days after that. I knew it was a great read from the very first pages when I wanted to write down quote after quotable quote. Like this one, which describes Patti as she tries to adapt to a new neighbourhood:

She was already the thing that was just starting to happen to the rest of the street.

Franzen makes much of the link to freedom and choice in this book, but to my mind this is a book about falling for the bad boy, marrying the good boy and then failing to grasp that lurking in every good boy is a demon lover who will become someone else’s bad boy if you are not very careful.

Another bookish event happened to me on the day of the earthquake. I finally decided to  read a graphic novel. George at Linwood went to a lot of trouble to select one for me. No sooner had the book been issued to me than the earthquake struck. I remain a graphic novel virgin. Even I can see a sign when it is writ that large.

So, what were you reading on February 22? And what have you been reading since? Do you have books that remind you of different times and places?