November 9, 2012

"I wanted to see if I had wasted my time writing..."

"And I thought it was rather successful. At the end of his life, the boxer Joe Louis said: ‘I did the best I could with what I had.’ This is exactly what I would say of my work: I did the best I could with what I had. And after that, I decided that I was done with fiction. I do not want to read, to write more. I have dedicated my life to the novel: I studied, I taught, I wrote and I read. With the exclusion of almost everything else. Enough is enough! I no longer feel this fanaticism to write that I have experienced in my life."

Philip Roth, at the age of 78, having written one more book, and having just read all his books (in reverse chronological order).

22 comments:

KLDAVIS said...

"Buy my book." - Jay Sherman

tiger said...

He never wrote anything I cared to read but it's interesting to see how he retired: no announcement, not farewell book tour.

He did like like Gene Hackman and Bowie: no big fanfare, just being done with what they did to live their lives and calling it day.

Kinda classy.

cassandra lite said...

He's not retiring in order to spend more time with his family, because he doesn't have a family. In my opinion, that hole is apparent in his work. He lacks access to something that would have enriched his characters and therefore his novels.

wyo sis said...

I've never read any of his books either. Many writers say they're driven to write. I wonder if it's really that easy to stop.

Bob_R said...

1. He made a living writing.
2. Several people still think some of his stuff was pretty good.
3. A few people think his stuff was great.

Big, Big , Big win. #1 is by for the most important.

Bob_R said...

By far or by four, whatever you think is better.

Ann Althouse said...

"I've never read any of his books either."

Try the great audiobook of "American Pastorale with Ron Silver reading.

William said...

I thought the conceits and self referral of some of his later novels were kind of labored. He worked too hard at being absurd. He was very, very smart and funny, and I learned something in all his books. But his earlier books were the ones I enjoyed the most....I don't read novels anymore. I know quite enough about the human condition. Maybe he feels the same. There aren't a lot of fun things to explicate about the human condition when you're seventy eight.

Bill Bullock said...

Goodbye, Columbus - my favorite novel. Thank you Mr. Roth.

creeley23 said...

I did the best I could with what I had.

I'm sixty. I haven't achieved nearly so much as Joe Louis or Philip Roth, and I haven't give up either, but that's how I feel.

So many people recommend Roth as one of our great novelists that I tried to read Portnoy's Complaint a year ago, but I couldn't get into it. Too Jewish motherish.

Goodbye Columbus and American Pastorale. Any others?

mccullough said...

Roth is the Jewish John Updike (or Updike is the WASP Roth). They are both good craftsman, etc. and I can appreciate their writing.

But neither of them does it for me like the best work of Don DeLillo and Cormac McCarthy.

mccullough said...

Creely23

The Plot Against America is pretty good.

Bill Bullock said...

Creeley23: IMO Goodbye, Columbus (a novella really) truly captures a time and place in America that has disappeared. The film version with a lovely Ali McGraw and Richard Benjamin is also very good. The Modern Library edition includes several other short stories. Might be a good place to start.

rcocean said...

He should have stopped writing years ago. That he is considered America's "Most decorated living Novelist" just shows how bankrupt American culture is.

But then the drop from Twain to Hemingway to Mailer to Roth is a big one.

rcocean said...

BTW isn't Kushner now "America's greatest dramatist"?

Again the drop in quality. O'Neill to Williams to Albee to Kushner.

ambienisevil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jr565 said...

Porn actresses probably have this same epiphany. Enough with the ganagbangs already, their vaginaa are worn out. They're tired , tired of being admired.

uffda said...

"Porn actresses probably...."

That really snuck up on me -- spew-coffee funny. Thanks for my first chuckle of the day.

Strelnikov said...

You did.

tim in vermont said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Smilin' Jack said...

I did the best I could with what I had.

And what you did was brilliant and beautiful. Thank you, Mr. Roth.

Smilin' Jack said...

I did the best I could with what I had.

And what you did was brilliant and beautiful. Thank you, Mr. Roth.