Respected writer/cranky misogynist V.S. Naipaul caused a stir last week by saying that female writers were inferior to him, hamstrung by "sentimentality" and a "narrow view of the world." Specifically, he told the Royal Geographic Society that
…I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me… And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too… My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh. I don't mean this in any unkind way.
I'm glad he didn't mean to be unkind; I wonder if he meant to be ridiculous, but no matter. The Guardian has put Naipaul's ideas to the test, excerpting ten paragraphs from unidentified novels and asking readers to guess whether each was written by a man or a woman. I scored four out of ten, but maybe I just don't have the penetrating eye for female weakness and sentimentality that V.S. Naipaul does.