TALKING BACK TO THE GENIUS, PHILLIP ROTH
I felt as if an arrow had pierced my heart when I read an interview on Phillip Roth in the November edition of “Vanity Fair.” His new book, “Nemesis” is out this year and he was discussing it and the fate of literature in America. The article states that:
“He believes the readership of serious literature will dwindle away to smaller and smaller numbers until readers become a cult.”
From this nadir, the article closes with a discussion about how many readers a writer needs.
Ask that question of numbers to a main stream publishing house and the answer is what? A million? Two million? A hundred million? Ask the same question of a small press publisher and the answer is what? One hundred? Five hundred? A thousand?
Roth’s answer is a story about a Russian author who goes to an older and more famous one to complain about the lack of an audience. The elderly man attempts to console his guest and suggests that a writer needs but four readers. Unfortunately, the younger man had two. Roth ends his tale, we are told, with a hearty laugh.
As a lion among the literary, I doubt Roth would be satisfied with four readers nor is he in any danger of that. I, on the other hand, a writer of lesser note, am left to feel anything but sanguine.
Genius, I suppose, has the effect of making the rest of us feel insecure. Perhaps that’s why society tends to make caricatures of them — grey haired men or women with fuzzy hair who are always losing their glasses.
I sincerely hope that genius can be wrong. Roth’s thoughts about the future of literature have left me dismayed. But he shall pay for it. I shall take my revenge by imagining him spending the day in search of his glasses.
Special Note: I’ve included a pair of links to my latest TV interview, “The Author’s Forum.” For those who interested in learning about “Heart Land” or “Gothic Spring,” you can listen to a 3-4 minute discussion of each from the program.