Monday, 6 June 2011


The definition of sexism is:
1. Discrimination based on gender, especially 
discrimination against women.
2. Attitudes, conditions, or behaviours that promote 
stereotyping based on gender
3. To conclude that others are inferior because 
they are different. 

VS Naipaul provoked fury by suggesting that women writers are 'sentimental' and 'unequal to me'

He also claimed that 'I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not.' 

I took the test, had to resist the urge to cheat and find out what the excerpts were before I began ;)
This is the link so you can score yourself properly
The Naipaul Test - Can you tell the author's sex by reading a paragraph of their work?
  1. 1.“At once, though it was night and the way was lonely, she left the hut and walked to the next village, where there was a hedge of cactus. She brought back leaves of cactus, cut them into strips and hung a strip over every door, every window, every aperture through which an evil spirit might enter the hut. But the midwife said, ‘whatever you do, this boy will eat up his own mother and father.’”
  2. 2.“Who am I? And how, I wonder, will this story end? The sun has come up and I am sitting by a window that is foggy with the breath of a life gone by. I’m a sight this morning: two shorts, heavy pants, a scarf wrapped twice around my neck and tucked into a think sweater knitted by my daughter thirty birthdays ago. The thermostat in my room is set as high as it will go, and a smaller space heater sits directly behind me. It clicks and groans and spews hot air like a fairytale dragon, and still my body shivers with a cold that will never go away, a cold that has been eight years in the making.”
  3. 3.“But was it really like that? As painful as I remember? Only mildly. Or rather, it was a productive and fructifying pain. Love, thick and dark as Alaga syrup, eased up into that cracked window. I could smell it – taste it – sweet, musty, with an edge of wintergreen in its base – everywhere in that house. It stuck, along with my tongue, to the frosted windowpanes. It coated my chest, along with the salve, and when the flannel came undone in my sleep, the clear, sharp curves of air outlines its presence on my throat. And in the night, when my couching was dry and tough, feet padded into the room, hands repinned the flannel, readjusted the quilt, and rested a moment on my forehead. So when I think of autumn, I think of someone with hands who does not want me to die.”
  4. 4.“Mungo drove with verve and dash. They had spent the night in an hotel by the Helford river. He had feared, when Alison insisted on stopping at a chemist in Truro, that she was planning one of her fucking headaches (to be exact a non-fucking headache) but this fear had been groundless. After dinner with Rory, who entertained them during the meal with a description of his life as a milliner, he had, elevated by circumspect consumption of wine, gone up to their room to find that she had bought not, as he supposed, soluble aspirin, but a choice of contraceptives. ‘Which do you prefer?’ Alison presented her offerings. ‘Arousal? Elite? Fiesta?’”
  5. 5.“Why had she married him? – For solace, for children. But at first the insomnia coating her brain got in the way of her first aim; and children don’t always come at once. So Amina had found herself dreaming about an undreamable poet’s face and waking with an unspeakable name on her lips. You ask: what did she do about it? I answer: she gritted her teeth and set about putting herself straight. This is what she told herself: ‘You big ungrateful goof, can’t you see who is your husband now? Don’t you know what a husband deserves?’ To avoid fruitless controversy about the correct answers to these questions, let me say that, in my mother’s opinion, a husband deserved unquestioning loyalty, and unreserved, full-hearted love.”
  6. 6.“I should know better than to read even as much as a headline in The New York Times; although, as I’ve often pointed out to my students at Bishop Strachan, this newspaper’s use of the semicolon is exemplary. Reagan Declares Firmness on Gulf; Plans Are Unclear Isn’t that a classic? I don’t mean the semicolon; I mean, isn’t that just what the world needs? Unclear firmness! That is the typical American policy: don’t be clear, but be firm!”
  7. 7.“Is there a cheese sandwich left? She rummages in the paper bag. No, she says, but there’s a hard-boiled egg. She’s never been this happy before. Everything is fresh again, still to be enacted. Just what the doctor ordered, he says. A bottle of lemonade, a hard-boiled egg, and Thou. He rolls the egg between his palms, cracking the shell, then peeling it away. She watches his mouth, the jaw, the teeth. Beside me singing in the public park, she says. Here’s the salt for it. Thanks. You remembered everything.”
  8. 8.“PS in answer to your ‘polite query’, yes, I am still one ... despite your evident contempt I’m feeling quite fine about it, thanks ... twenty is really not that late among young people these days, especially if they’ve decided to make their fellowship with Christ. It was weird that you asked, because I did walk through Hyde Park yesterday and thought of you losing yours to someone you had never met before and never would again. And no. I wasn’t tempted to repeat the incident...”
  9. 9.“I have vascular dementia, the doctor told me, and there was some comfort to be had. There’s the slowness of the undoing, which he must have mentioned a dozen times. Also, it’s not as bad as Alzheimer’s, with its mood swings and aggression. If I’m lucky, it might turn out to be somewhat benign. I might not be unhappy – just a dim old biddy in a chair, knowing nothing, expecting nothing. I had asked him to be frank, so I could not complain. Now he was hurrying me out. There were twelve people in his waiting room wanting their turn. In summary, as he helped me into my coat, he gave me the route map: loss of memory, short-and long-term, the disappearance of single words – simple nouns might be the first to go – then language itself, along with balance, and soon after, all motor control, and finally the autonomous nervous system. Bon Voyage!”
  10. 10.“A tall, broad-shouldered man came to stand in the doorway, dressed in faded jeans and an untucked tan chamois shirt, his feet shod in moccasins. Maggie could hardly take him in. Brown curly hair, a light stubble of beard, piercing green eyes framed by laugh wrinkles. Cookie halfway to her mouth and uncharacteristically breathless, she admonished herself, Get a grip. He's just another man…”


  1. Haha. I got 5/10. I'm an expert at guessing, or at least that's what probability would tell me. *shrug* Even though you did well, do you think it really matters?

  2. Hi Rosie
    5/10 is a fair score - even... even ;)

    I'm ashamed to admit I had already read one of the books but I didn't recognise it - I worked out it was by a woman though.

    I tried hard not to guess.

    The only thing that matters is if you want to go on to find, and to read, the book.

  3. I took this quiz from the original article, and got 6 out of 10. One of my brilliant scientist friends said a flip of a coin would be 50/50, so to really show you can tell, you have to score at least 8 out of 10. Nobody I spoke to got more than 6 out of 10. Shows how arrogant Nai Paul is.

  4. I scored a 6 of 10 too. I think it says more about his stereotyping that it does my inability to recognize gender styles in writing. The comment at the end of the quiz was humorous that "you need to read more male authors" was interesting since I don't remember the last female author I read. Well, maybe I do-- it might have been an Elizabeth Peters novel but that was well over a year ago. I've read nothing but men authors since: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Paul West, Hemingway, and right now David Foster Wallace.

  5. Hi Theresa
    I scored 8/10 :D I put it down to m'psychic granny ;)
    I didn't dare do the whole test again. Even knowing the answers, the only results I was certain I would score correctly on were 5 and 7 :D

    Hi Danette
    That was a crazy comment for the quiz author to use. The "You are no Sir Vidia" on an 8/10 annoyed me but it seemed very appropriate considering I'm female.
    I didn't really care if they were male or female.

    Hi Summer
    Go you! :D 7/10 We are scaling the heights with these numbers ;)

  6. I can't imagine a man writing about "an untucked tan chamois shirt".