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Sideshow: Naipaul: Women no match for me

V.S. Naipaul, considered by some to be the greatest living craftsman of English prose, is a friend to all women, to womanhood itself.

V.S. Naipaul

, considered by some to be the greatest living craftsman of English prose, is a friend to all women, to womanhood itself.

The Nobel-winning author of Half a Life suffered through a firestorm of criticism this week just to protect those fragile creatures from their own vanity and ambition by declaring that women, by their very nature, are inferior writers.

"I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not," Naipaul, 78, said during a chat at the Royal Geographic Society in London.

"I think [it's] unequal to me."

He singled out beloved English witticist, ironist, and ethicist Jane Austen. "[I] couldn't possibly share her sentimental ambitions," he said, "her sentimental sense of the world."

His female publisher, he added, "was so good as a taster and editor, [but] when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh. I don't mean this in any unkind way."

See, he says it all with admirable kindness.

English critic Helen Brown was not amused.

Naipaul, she said, "should heed the words of George Eliot - a female writer - whose works have had a far more profound impact on world culture than his."

Skills more appropriate for girls . . .

Jessica Simpson

has joined forces with sis


to create a new line of tween fashions that will be infused with a "girlie, playful attitude." Jess says Ashlee "brings a savvy rocker edge that defines today's tweens."

Vieira: Not leaving for husband's sake

Meredith Vieira

denies reports she is leaving NBC's


show so she can tend full-time to her husband,

Richard Cohen

, who has multiple sclerosis, is legally blind, and has had two bouts of colon cancer - though she does care for him. "It was being distorted, because it looked better to make it, 'Poor Meredith, she triumphs through it all,' but that wasn't the case," Vieira, 57, tells People.

Boldfacers in and out of love

Doylestown's fave daughter,


, may be in labor as I write! Or not. The singer's fans are atwitter after this tweet from the pregnant Pink, who is due any time now: "New Moon in Gemini today :) a good time to start something new . . . Also called the Honey Moon. #intoit."

Speaking of unknown unknowns, People mag speculates that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will finally marry now that their six children have become curious about their relational status. "The words adoption, birth mothers, orphanages are happy words in our household," says Jolie, who says she'll tie the knot if the kids want it.

Here's a cool math test from the New York Post: Ellen Barkin is 57 years old, while her live-in beau, Sam Levinson, is a mere 26. That means she's more than twice his age. Sam, by the by, is the son of Barry Levinson, 69, who directed the young Ellen in her breakout role in Diner. That film came out 29 years ago, three years before Sam was born.

Two breakups: SpideyDude Andrew Garfield, 27, and the non-famous Shannon Woodward, 26, are kaput. Ryan Phillippe and Amanda Seyfried's on-off-'n'-off-on thing is in the off mode again.

A woman artist who shoots guys

Barbados' greatest export, singer


, has responded to attacks that her video for "Man Down," which shows the

Chris Brown

survivor gunning down an abusive lover, condones violence. It's meant to raise women's awareness of domestic violence, she says in a series of tweets: "We always think it could never be us," she writes, "but in reality, it can happen to any of us! So ladies be careful and listen to yo mama!" And carry a gun in your handbag?

Tidbits 'n' pieces

Amy Winehouse

, 27, is taking her sobriety seriously: The Brit blues woman has checked out of rehab for drugs 'n' alcohol after a whole week. She'll do outpatient work, her rep insists. . . . A Florida court has found actor

Billy Bob Thornton

's estranged daughter,

Amanda Brumfield

, 32, guilty of aggravated manslaughter in the death of

Olivia Madison Garcia

, the year-old daughter of a friend. Brumfield, who was babysitting the child, had been charged with first-degree murder. She will be sentenced next month. . . .

Martin Scorsese

may soon bring

Elizabeth Taylor


Richard Burton

's epic love affair to the screen. He's optioned Burton's tome,

Furious Love

. . . . Oscar-winner

Jennifer Hudson

will join

Jane Lynch


Larry David

in the

Farrelly Brothers

' touching biopic

The Three Stooges


Plummer: Get over it already!

Canadian actor

Christopher Plummer

, 81, is shocked - and a bit appalled - by the attention, the buzz, the chatter that continues to swirl around his 1965 hit

The Sound of Music

after nearly half a century.

"Yeah, it drives me nuts," he tells "It has nothing to do with the movie, it's just a relentless pursuing of this film that goes on and on and I've gone on and on, far above and beyond it and then to be reminded of it. God almighty what is the matter with people?" What, indeed?

Huff, Gamble & others to be honored

Kenny Gamble


Leon Huff

are two of the local bigwigs who will be honored at the 2011 Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists Awards on June 11 at WHYY's studios. Tix are still available for the shindig. Info: 215-854-2289 or