Sunday, June 5, 2011

How dare you, V.S. Naipaul. + I like to think of myself as a stately pleasure dome.

Dear V.S. Naipaul,

Gosh darn. Thanks for your trash talk on culture. I can't wait to see you and Philip Roth go all girlfight over who has the worst time reckoning himself to his anatomy.

You told a journalist that all fiction by women was sentimental, narrow and inferior, and thus, you sly cat, you got me, a woman, thinking. Think about that! Oddly, though I read several of your books when I was in my twenties, I can't remember titles, plots, if I liked them or didn't. Just sayin'. In terms of sentimentality, however, I wonder about the following books which I can remember reading when I was in my twenties.

Madame Bovary. The women kills herself. Loves goes wrong, society is a hard place for a woman, and so she paints her lips a tasteful blue and falls into the big sleep. Sentimental? If she had become a whore on the streets of Paris it would be less sentimental.

Anna Karenina. The woman kills herself. Karenina is a more engrossing book than Bovary but not quite as finely stitched--Flaubert is a real real careful writer, even I could tell that and I have a vagina and breasts. Russian society is a worse place to live in than Bovary's society and Anna chooses death by the D Train. Sentimental?

D.H. Lawrence, works thereof. Granted that for those of us of a certain age it is hard to disengage from images of Alan Bates and Oliver Reed man-wrestling on fur, when we think of Lawrence. Still Lawrence writes of Big Love and not Salt Lake City style. Sentimental, Sir. Lawrence is sentimental.

Karl Marx was so fully human in his love of each person's capacity for fulfillment and so fully committed to creating a world where that is possible, that well, he must be sentimental. Cause that ain't happening anytime soon. Certainly not equality for men and women, not as long as your types smirk and strut.

Proust. Well, no one would accuse a man who creates seven volumes of written memorabilia in search of lost times sentimental. Would they? A thousand-page docket of hard thinking? Nu-uh.

The Lake Poets? Nuttin' sentimental in a field of daffodils or a stately pleasure dome. I like to think of myself as a stately pleasure dome, but that's something altogether different.

Bold Lord Byron on whose verse butter melts? He's a wonderful poet but in disfavor, in some circles, for that boldness which is sentimental in its own way.

What about some of the great saints? Theresa, John of the Cross, Francis? Isn't it implicit in such kick-butt faith a level of sentimentality which allows us to believe the unseen.

Though I've read him, I'm going to take a pass on Rabelais here but I cannot ignore the sweeping gestures of Cervantes and his windmill-dualist as sentimental.

Clear-headed and divine though he was, Spinoza expressed some sentimentality in his notion of us ending up on a far star. And please, there nothing as sentimental as one of Leibniz’s monads. Those guys and gals are all about pulling out their handkerchiefs and showing us they cannot go in or out because they are monads, boo hoo. I'm tired of it!

Blake? Thomas Hardy?

I loved reading every book and author mentioned above. Except you who I neither like nor dislike as I cannot remember one thing about your novels.

Yours until the end of this posting,
Sarah "Sentimental Me" Sarai

p.s. Have you read Leslie Marmon Silko's Almanac of the Dead?  I doubt it.
From some of my sisters. . .
From One Writer To Another: Shut Up, V.S. Naipaul by Diana Abu Jabar

In a Sentimental Mood by Danielle Pafunda

Sentimental, Narrow, Women’s Writing. Alas, Alack, Anon! by Roxane Gay

**The gorgeous monads available here. (If you don't know Leibnitz look elsewhere for what a real monad is. This monad is a computer thing but lovely.)


  1. An inspired rant accompanied by astute literary observations, thank you!

    Vidi is a worn out old man. Be grateful if you are not in a relationship with such an individual. He has let his pride make him small.

    Ironically his remarks, mirror-like though aimed at others, describe him best. Clearly he doesn't get out of his bubble much. He may have been less insular, less self-aggrandizing and insipid in his youth ... but perhaps not. Avid celebrity seekers tend to share the same venal faults. One might have hoped Naipaul would have possessed keen intellect enough to rise above this ... evidently not. One can picture him flatulently expatiating in that bastion of condescension, the Royal Geographic Society, trading bon mots with his fellows. Chillin'.

    Journalists for their part tend to repeat the silliest things about a personality. It makes for easier, more memorable reading for their audience. It says something about what they think of their audience, or the audience they seek. Is being considered 'the finest living writer of English prose', by whom I wouldn't know, a distinction like having the greatest Melodic Death Metal album of the 80's? No doubt the sobriquet was arrived at with similar omniscience. Oh, I believe it, no question. It was in the paper!

    Don't become like him with his trashy spew, a disposition unbecoming stately pleasure domes everywhere. Naipaul's next love-you-longtime girlfriend is most likely Death and that courtesan must make him feel very small indeed.

  2. I agree that journalists "repeat the silliest things about a personality." Thank you for the warning. I do risk tarnishing my stately pleasure dome and will keep that in mind.

    This is why so much attentive is given to not very bright pseudo politicians--they are easily mockable and the modkers get a little attention.

    Warm regards,

  3. Jeeze. I won't insult your intelligence by correcting my spelling. Jeeze. This stately pleasure dome blushes.

  4. I find that 'modkers' is most poetic.

  5. Or a bit Basil Rathboney. Modkers, Watson. The woman's done it again.

  6. Sarah, I remember I read Naipaul too and now I can't recall anything, either. Must be catching! Christina Pacosz

  7. Oops not sure my comment came through. I read Naipaul too and cannot recall anything, either. Must be catching! Christina Pacosz

  8. Hmmmmm. Must be catching indeed. I suspect I greatly admired his sentences, the writing per se, but didn't hang onto the import of his work, his doing or mine. Elizabeth Kate Switaj has great insight into this issue of challenging women via the media.