Muse by Craig Ranapia

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Muse: V.S. Naipaul and the Gentle Art of Prostate Gazing

25 Responses

  • Russell Brown,

    When I read yesterday what Naipaul had written about Austen, I immediately thought of you, Craig. Nice work.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17938 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Isn't the whole point of Sense and Sensibility that an over-reliance on romantic tosh means you'll wind up nearly dying of pneumonia and should have just married that nice middle-aged widower in the first place?

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3582 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Or, in Emma : don't set your sights on the romantic stranger; marry your sensible next-door neighbour.

    Or, in Northanger Abbey : act like a swooning idiot and lose that nice sensible chap you enjoy hanging out with.

    (Yeah, I could do this all day.)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3582 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Danielle,

    Up to a point. I've known one or two teenagers flouncing around I've been sorely tempted to smack around the head with a copy of Sense and Sensibility. (Though a hardcover of Middlemarch would probably make a more satisfying crack.) Nowadays, though, I suspect Leonard Cohen CDs are more likely to be the offensively sensitive weapon of choice than slim volumes of Crabbe and Shakespeare's sonnets.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Shakespeare's sonnets.

    121 would seem apposite. Just sayin'.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    (note to self: refrain from quoting Mark Twain on Jane Austen in this thread)

    Lower Grey Lynn • Since Jul 2009 • 782 posts Report Reply

  • Ngaire BookieMonster, in reply to Danielle,

    Isn't the whole point of Sense and Sensibility that an over-reliance on romantic tosh means you'll wind up nearly dying of pneumonia and should have just married that nice middle-aged widower in the first place?

    Especially if that nice middle-aged widower is Alan Rickman.

    At the foot of Mt Te Aroh… • Since Nov 2009 • 173 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    I feel no such restraint, Martin.

    “…. Well, Miss Elliot,” (lowering his voice) “as I was saying, we shall never agree I suppose upon this point. No man and woman, would, probably. But let me observe that all histories are against you–all stories, prose and verse. If I had such a memory as Benwick, I could bring you fifty quotations in a moment on my side the argument, and I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman’s inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men.”

    “Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.”

    Persuasion, by the divine Jane.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    I do like a good quote-off.

    No one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility.

    &

    The writer of originality, unless dead, is always shocking, scandalous; novelty disturbs and repels.

    Simone de Beauvoir.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to Deborah,

    I'll let Mark Twain rip then:

    I haven't any right to criticise books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.
    - Letter to Joseph Twichell, 13 September 1898

    ;-)

    Lower Grey Lynn • Since Jul 2009 • 782 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    I’ll let Mark Twain rip then:

    OK. Personally, I can never quite tell how much of Twain's writing prove anything more than he would have made a damn good talkback radio host or blog-farmed comment troll if he'd been born in 1985 instead of 1835. Emily Auerbach has a fascinating essay which asks "Did Mark Twain Really Hate Jane Austen?" I'm inclined to think not as much as he liked to pretend, but playing the straight-talking Yankee taking that snooty old maid back East - and her effete beaux - down a peg or two dozen was too tempting (and easy) to resist.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    OK. Personally, I can never quite tell how much of Twain’s writing prove anything more than he would have made a damn good talkback radio host or blog-farmed comment troll if he’d been born in 1985 instead of 1835.

    True, but I do love his turn of phrase. I'll bookmark that Auerbach essay for later reading.

    Lower Grey Lynn • Since Jul 2009 • 782 posts Report Reply

  • bmk,

    Yeah I love Mark Twain’s quotes on Austen, (I do like most ‘classics’ but for some reason just can’t stand Austen) my favourite one:

    Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.

    I am a little scared now having lurked on here along time before I started posting and always told myself that I should endeavour to never get on the wrong side of Craig. And now I have just insulted, albeit by proxy, his favourite author.

    Whangarei • Since Jun 2010 • 279 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to bmk,

    on the wrong side of Craig

    you'll survive

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15711 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to bmk,

    I should endeavour to [sic] get on the wrong side of Craig.

    It takes some practice, but eventually you'll get the hang of it.

    Anyway, who needs Austen when you've got Harold Robins?

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks,

    ...Naipaul’s sadistic abuse of his first wife and various mistresses.

    I hadn't heard of that until I read this at The Dim-Post.

    Carnal pleasure meant violence — in fact it was inextricable from beating Margaret up, degrading her in bed, turning the great man’s penis into an object of worship.

    Combine that with his myopic views on women writers, and it's clear Naipaul has serious issues with women.

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1122 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to bmk,

    And now I have just insulted, albeit by proxy, his favourite author.

    Meh... if Austen's reputation can survive waxing and waning for two centuries, I can deal with others not sharing my perfect literary taste. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Tamsin6,

    I remember the lovely controversy over the interview conducted by Mrs Naipaul with the former Mrs Mandela last year.

    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23812947-how-nelson-mandela-betrayed-us-says-ex-wife-winnie.do

    There are a few clues in that piece about how Naipaul views women, and just other people generally.

    My nerves were playing up: my husband does not like to be kept waiting at the best of times. He is punctilious and has been known to walk away from a delayed meeting, leaving me to deal with the fallout.

    It is quite a dreadful piece of writing in general actually - IMHO of course.

    London • Since Dec 2007 • 123 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Steve Parks,

    Combine that with his myopic views on women writers, and it’s clear Naipaul has serious issues with women.

    If you want to read A Writer’s People, I think it’s pretty clear that Naipaul has serious issues with men too – well, male writers who get attention that belongs to him. His lengthy slash on Anthony Powell’s corpse, the careful inflation of trivial fifty year old slights into something tantamount to hate crimes, and the kind of half-baked gossip that should get no further than a long liquid lunch, is embarrasing to behold.

    I can understand people who don’t share my fondness for Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time sequence and there is a case to be made for the prosecution. But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that in Vidia’s estimation the real test for being a “serious” writer is being Vidia or knowing your place.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    If you want to read A Writer’s People, I think it’s pretty clear that Naipaul has serious issues with men too – well, male writers who get attention that belongs to him.

    Which would make him a misanthrope, right?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 3896 posts Report Reply

  • Nik C,

    Diana Athil's response to him calling her work "feminine tosh" was quite amusing too. Basically along the lines of, "Lol, come at me bro."

    "I can't say it made me feel very bad. It just made me laugh ... I think one should just ignore it, take no notice really."

    Also: "At least I'm not married to Vidia."

    Since Aug 2009 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    The most casual flick through Stet would reveal that Athill is about as sentimental as a flick knife – she has Naipaul’s measure (and several other authors) with forensic precision. But she also provides a useful reality check on anyone who wants to get too nostalgic about the good old days of London’s gentlemen amateur publishers. She’s rightly proud of the books André Deutsch published; but also very candid about how cavalier Deutsch could be about the tiresome practicalities of running a business… like paying people’s (hardly extravagant) wages in full and on time. (She doesn't give herself much slack either -- calling herself out on enabling some frankly appalling nonsense from her boss.)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Timothy Maby,

    Hi folks from England, Just discovered your blog on the recommendation of writer/performer originally from NZ Stella Duffy. I produce a weekly books podcast for guardian.co.uk and we discussed this issue a couple of weeks agoi9n a show all about how literature was a way for feminists to campaign. Our London writer Naomi Alderman succinctly described Naipaaul as a "f***kwit",while the Editor of Granta, John Freeman wondered why so many ageing male writers turn curmudgeon. If you would like to know more here it is: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/audio/2011/jun/10/tea-obreht-ann-patchett-feminism-podcast

    London, England • Since Jun 2011 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Timothy Maby,

    Editor of Granta, John Freeman wondered why so many ageing male writers turn curmudgeon.

    Honestly, I don't know if that's an affliction you can pin on the literary XY chromosome. Germaine Greer, anyone? Fay Weldon?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    But I cant think of too many others, Craig…

    And most female writers I know (as in, have met & enjoyed conversations with, as well as via their books) of an age even more senior than mine, are singularly gracious beings. And, interestingly, not competitive.

    Naipaul (whom I’ve never met) strikes me as a desperately insecure AND vindictive person, who doesnt quite believe his own achievements. Or doesnt believe that his achievements really count with the people he thinks really count.

    The mind boggles at determining those people…almost no male author, and no female author at all (I am not excluding GLITFAB people in any way!)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

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