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V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

What books, zines or other pulp are you reading? What aren't you reading? What should everyone else read?

Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Thu Jun 09, 2011 10:58 am

It seems to me that if you took all the books ever written and averaged out their "greatness", it would become immediately apparent that the majority of the worst books ever written were penned by men. Therefore, I conclude that men are terrible writers. Except for Marvell. That guy can write a fish story that'll make you weep.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby TheBookPolice » Thu Jun 09, 2011 3:39 pm

George Eliot and Andre Norton are some of my favorite male authors. I like female writers, though; V.C Andrews's stuff after 1986 or so has been great.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Galoot » Thu Jun 09, 2011 4:24 pm

Nicely played, Book, nicely played.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Huckleby » Thu Jun 09, 2011 4:47 pm

ahhhh, she's not THAT clever
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Ducatista » Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:23 pm

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

Wait a minute—if he were spouting racist claptrap instead of sexist, would you be as nonchalant?

I don't often get too worked up about sexism. For one thing, it's so baked into the culture, who's got the time? For another, I suffer from it less than most—luck of the draw as a very tall woman on the smart side of average living on the isthmus.

But every once in a while something highlights just how fucking systemic sexism is, and it makes me want to bite. I don't mean Naipaul's nonsense—he's a douchey outlier who deserves to be called out, as he has been. I mean your "what's the big deal?" tolerance of his bullshit.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Huckleby » Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:40 pm

I have an unsecret agenda. I declare Naipaul to be no big deal in an attempt to highlight the rampant tribalism all around. He may be more direct and offensive, but his preference for male sensibility really is not so different from "A Room of One's Own" bookstore devotion.


I don't go too crazy about people wanting to relate to artists and entertainers of their "own kind." It's human nature. But i hope for people to try and be more broad minded.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby massimo » Thu Jun 09, 2011 6:14 pm

Huckleby wrote:But i hope for people to try and be more broad minded.

Oh, thought that sort of thing was "no big deal." :roll:
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Huckleby » Thu Jun 09, 2011 6:54 pm

My assault is on black-and-white thinking. Sexism & racism exist everywhere in shades of grey. Massimo, I won't be able to make you understand what I am saying because you demand clear condemnation.

I often play devil's advocate, and I don't mean in an insincere way. For instance, I thought it was outrageous when people demanded that Michael Vick go to prison for years for his mistreatment of dogs. When we routinely accept cruelty to animals throughout our culture, it is hypocritical and wrong to make a capital offense out of a mistreatment that happens to pull on our heart strings. Given society standards, I thought he should have gotten a couple months in the pen.

Similar deal with Naipaul. I disapprove of what he says on many levels. I'm a warrior for open mindedness, so he's in my crosshairs. Yet I see his sort of tribalism everywhere, so I'm gonna let him off with a stern warning.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby kurt_w » Fri Jun 10, 2011 6:47 am

Yeah, yeah, we get it. It's all about the "tribalism", which apparently afflicts everyone except Huck.

Sorry, but I call BS on that. It's a lazy excuse for not actually considering the merits of a case. "I don't need to think about who's right and who's wrong -- they're all just looking out for their own tribes, and I'm above that kind of thing."

What are you doing writing on the Forum -- with your attitude, you could waltz right into a job at the NY Times or the Washington Post. They can't get enough of that shtick.

You've clearly got the method down pat. Some respected male authority figure is being criticized? Gotta scramble to point out an equivalent sinner on the Left, preferably a woman, so that you can sagely shake your head and bemoan the way our culture sinking into tribalism or partisanship or whatever.

I guess this is why you keep trying to set up the folks at "A Room of One's Own" as some kind of feminist mirror-image of Naipaul's bigotry. It's a silly position to take -- "Room" carries plenty of books by male authors, even by straight white dead male authors. Right now on their website they're advertising three author events -- one by a woman (Mary Gordon) and two by men (Dean Bakopoulos and Patrick Somerville). Or read through the bookstore's list of Staff Picks -- sure, there's books by Mira and Helen and Pam, but there's also books by Richard and Barry and Mel and Jim.

So, sorry, but I don't buy it. Naipaul is a jerk, and his foolish public generalizations about women really do suggest that he's ignorant about both the specific matter of women writers and the broader topic of how to relate to others in an egalitarian society. You can't sweep that all under the rug with the broom of "hey, it's just tribalism and I'm above all that".
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby kurt_w » Fri Jun 10, 2011 7:33 am

Ducatista wrote:Wait a minute—if he were spouting racist claptrap instead of sexist [...]


I think Naipaul's misogyny is worse (e.g., the horrifying abuse of his first wife and his Argentinian mistress), but he's certainly gotten a fair bit of attention in the past decade for "racist claptrap", too.

In another "Books" thread people have been posting examples of final words from various novels that were especially moving. I just can't shake off the final words from a letter that Naipaul's mistress wrote to the NY Review of Books a couple of years ago.

As context, Patrick French had just published his authorized biography of Naipaul. French described some of the physical abuse that Naipaul heaped on the woman. Naipaul himself had told his biographer about a two-day binge during which he beat his mistress so severely that his hand hurt, and she couldn't appear in public for days (the latter concern seems decidedly secondary to the former in Naipaul's mind).

Naipaul claimed that she willingly accepted this abuse: "She didn’t mind at all. She thought of it in terms of my passion for her."

But her 2009 letter to the NYRB ends thusly:

Vidia says I didn’t mind the abuse. I certainly did mind.

Margaret Murray
Buenos Aires, Argentina
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Huckleby » Fri Jun 10, 2011 9:49 am

kurt_w wrote:"hey, it's just tribalism and I'm above all that".
Why did you shift the conversation to a long diatribe about my character? That's usually what people do when they are losing an argument, and I didn't sense your position was so desperate.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Huckleby » Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:03 am

Ducatista wrote: Wait a minute—if he were spouting racist claptrap instead of sexist, would you be as nonchalant?

I do think sexism and racism are very different issues. We are more accepting of differences between genders as being inherent, biological, psychological. Men and women do tend to think differently.

I know a couple women who read almost exclusively female authors. They both have degrees in Woman's Studies from U.W., one is a lady in her 60's who got her degree when the program just started. They are both well-rounded people, they like men. I still consider it a bit lame to be so focused on one half of the population.

I am certainly not directly equating someone who finds female literature superior with Naipaul's virulence. But I insist there is much in common, and it tempers my condemnation of Naipaul's views.

Similarily, I don't make a direct comparison of the bow hunter with Michael Vick. But bow hunting causes suffering for animals, those poor fuckers die a slow, agonizing death. Both parties are causing suffering for sport. Society doesn't send bow hunters to jail. So I would find it hypocritical to treat Vick like an ax murderer.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby TheBookPolice » Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:20 am

Huckleby wrote:Similarily, I don't make a direct comparison of the bow hunter with Michael Vick. But bow hunting causes suffering for animals, those poor fuckers die a slow, agonizing death. Both parties are causing suffering for sport. Society doesn't send bow hunters to jail. So I would find it hypocritical to treat Vick like an ax murderer.

What a mess of an argument. This paragraph only puts the tied-with-one-hand-in-the-dark bow on top of it.

Men and women are objectively different. So are blacks and whites. And Madisonians and Chicagoans. But these differences are all completely meaningless in the discussion of the ability to create quality written works. They're also on a sliding scale of overall meaningfulness; in general life, few actually matter on anything but a bureaucratic level.

And maybe you're unfamiliar with hunting, but sport hunters kill for sport. Other hunters kill for skin, or pelts, or meat. Yes, deer and dogs are both animals. So here you choose to refute a fundamental difference, when with men and women you're so keen to latch onto those differences?

Everything is different, and nothing is different: the Huckleby model.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby Huckleby » Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:39 am

TheBookPolice wrote: Men and women are objectively different ..... But these differences are all completely meaningless in the discussion of the ability to create quality written works .


are you arguing that men and women write the same way?

If women write with the same sensibility as men, then why have a women's bookstore, or women's literature studies?

On the other hand, If men and women are different, then why should we not expect some people to have a preference for one style or the other?

I suppose you are saying they are of "equal quality", ok, well, I'm not expressing a preference for one gender or the other. I join you in that safety zone.
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Re: V.S. Naipaul is an ignorant jerk

Postby TheBookPolice » Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:43 am

Taste and preference are two different things, Huckleby. Or have you never seen a movie you disliked but acknowledged was well-made? Or a plate of food that didn't appeal to your tastes, but was prepared carefully and professionally?

Naipaul appears to have plenty of preferences, and a shortage of taste.
Last edited by TheBookPolice on Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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