Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lady Novelists


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.

1 comment:

Laura J. Wellner (author pseudonym Laura J. W. Ryan) said...

Virginia Woolf is quite a funny lady at times...if you haven't already, read Night and Day, that one is hilarious! If you go into that one too seriously it doesn't work... she has that dry Brit humor that is simply funny to the bone.