Apologies for anyone who’s talked to me about gender differences at all before, but this is perhaps hanging over from last night’s wine-heated kitchen conversation about gender and language (big surprise).
From The Voyage Out:
‘Persuasion,’ announced Richard, examining the volume:
‘That’s for Miss Vinrace,’ said Clarissa. ‘She can’t bear our beloved Jane.’
‘That – if I may say so – is because you have not read her,’ said Richard. ‘She is incomparably the greatest female writer we possess.’
‘She is the greatest,’ he continued, ‘and for this reason: she does not attempt to write like a man. Every other woman does; on that account, I don’t read ‘em.’
Of course, I’m not sure what I think about the ‘female sentence’, which writers like Dorothy Richardson, who I enjoy, sought to discover and perfect. I think I have less sympathy for it than I once did, because I’m not much a supporter of essentialism. I don’t think there is such a thing as an essentially female anything.
But this reminded me of this wonderful antique store in Woodstock, near Blenheim, which offers a great selection of early twentieth century writers. But – strangely the books are shelved by gender. The novels written by women oppose a shelf where all the novels by men are kept. I can’t imagine the reason for this. It makes the books seem prude.