Back in 2011 V.S. Naipaul (full disclosure, I’ve never actually read anything by V.S. Naipaul) pissed off women the world over with two statements. First, that he didn’t think there were any women writers, living or dead, who were as good as him. Second, that he could tell if the writer of a book was a woman within a couple of paragraphs.
Well, I thought, the first statement is outrageous arrogance. Mary Shelley was a revolution in literature, she pretty much invented science fiction. Ursula LeGuin wrote The Dispossessed, which was brilliant both as sci-fi and as social commentary. I liked all of Jean Auel’s books. And, of course, there is J.K. Rowling, who I practically worship.
But, I wasn’t so sure about the second statement. The way I see it, it is not sexist to point out that there are differences between the sexes and, if the man says he can spot a woman writer within two paragraphs, maybe he can. Certainly, he’s somebody who knows a thing or two about the craft. I didn’t think I could do it, though.
Anyway, in response to the controversy, a quiz soon popped up on facebook: can you spot which of these passages was written by a woman? So, I had to take the test. I only had to discount 2 or 3 of the passages because of actually knowing them, but out of the rest I got almost a perfect score. I don’t know how. I was guessing wild, totally by feel, but the score was beyond a fluke. It definitely is possible to tell if something was written by a woman or a man. We don’t write the same, any more than we think the same.
Now, I have another confession to make. I choose my reading materials pretty much the same way I eat, and the way I used to drink back in my alcohol loving days, i.e. pretty much anything that’s put in front of me, without a lot of premeditation or discrimination. Which is why I’m reading a book by Nicholas Sparks. My wife loves him and she uses my kindle more than I do, so that’s what’s there. I swear, it was not my choice.
But, in reading this novel (The Rescue, about a single mother with a special needs child and her trouble finding a good man) I came to a surprising conclusion. Nicholas Sparks is a woman. It’s probably actually Nicole Sparks, and she just hires a random actor dude for the cover photos. Or, maybe he is technically a man, in possession of male body parts and such, but he is totally a woman inside.
It was a conversation between two men, best friends, in a bar, that made me realize it. Guys just don’t analyze their emotions in that much depth, unless one of them is a psychiatrist. It was like that facebook meme where they transcribe a woman’s conversation and then have two very hirsute men reading the lines.
I don’t know what I’m going to read next. But it won’t be Nicholas Sparks. I get the stories told to me anyway.