Friday, October 15, 2010

Philip Roth’s late-career output staccato bursts of urgent, short books

Quite possibly Philip Roth is one of the greatest living writers. Shamefully I admit, only one book of his I've read so far out of his 31 books, and the two I did start but did not finish reading for my own fault. The one that I'd read a few years ago, titled "The Plot Against America", I found to be superbly written, a fast paced story plot where the writer had created an alternate world but so strikingly and shockingly similar to today's world of shattering indifference and inflated bigotry, I knew then, as I know now, writings of Philip Roth so eloquently brings home the meaning of humanity, without prejudice.

Not sure how and what criteria the Nobel committee applies selecting their yearly prize winner in literature, and definitely this year's winner Mario Vargas Llosa is indeed "a true man of letters" and worthy of this prestigious award, the absence of now 77 year old Philip Roth from the long list of Nobel laureates does seem to me preposterous to the least. This prolific writer does not care whether he wins or not, as he has won many other awards in literature, continue to write "eight hours a day, mainly sitting at a desk rather than standing full-time at a lectern as he once did, but always going. What he would like, Roth says, is to keep writing one long book till he died.“That would be nice,” he says. “I would love to get a big idea and just keep writing until I left it unfinished. It would just go as long as I was breathing. But I don’t seem to be able to find it.” 

About the rapidly diminishing readership of literature he says, “The novel’s not going to disappear,” he says. “What’s already begun to disappear, and has been disappearing for years, is the readership.” He blames the screens. “It began with the movie screen, then the television screen, and the nail in the coffin was the computer screen. There’s no competing against that.”He complains about friends who used to read and now “watch a movie every night – crap most of the time.” There’s no time left for the book, and the book’s time is over. “So I think it’s going to be pretty bad for our children.”

Philip Roth's social purpose is clear: “I just try to write the book I can, to write as well as I can,” Roth says. “That’s the social purpose – to write as well as you can.”

He does write as well as he can, that is possibly among the best in our contemporary world. Whether he cares or not, this humble reader wants to see Philip Roth's name in the long list of Nobel laureates before it is too late.


Link to an article on Philip Roth: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/books/philip-roths-latest-complaint/article1749664/

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