Yesterday, a minor Canadian novelist (and I do mean minor) named David Gilmour hung himself in an interview with Hazlitt writer Emily Keeler. She went to his house to see his bookshelves for a regular column she writes called “Shelf Esteem.” He decided to toss off a few bons mots about why he doesn’t teach women writers — “[W]hen I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women,” haha get it? — and, well, the rest is web outrage history.
Not to give Gilmour any credit whatsoever, but he’s hardly the first writer to make such sexist remarks. Often people like Philip Roth do it, via the vehicle of their characters, and then claim plausible deniability by invoking “truth.” Witness this, in Roth’s Paris Review interview:
Look, I didn’t invent the loss of desire, and I didn’t invent the lure of passion, and I didn’t invent sane companions, and I didn’t invent maniacs. I’m sorry if my men don’t have the correct feelings about women, or the universal range of feelings about women, or the feelings about women that it will be okay for men to have in 1995, but I do insist that there is some morsel of truth in my depiction of what it might be like for a man to be a Kepesh, or a Portnoy, or a breast.
Mmm. OK, so men have bad feelings about women, sometimes, and men often commit them to print, in the name of Truth, Beauty, and the human spirit! There is certainly a part of me that feels they ought to be congratulated on their candor, even if I am horrified by the attitude expressed. So here are seven quotes from famous male authors on the truth about women, as they perceive it. I tried to pick instances, like Gilmour’s, where the authors were speaking in their own voices, rather than through the narrators of their fiction. The results were still… well, you look.