A little heralded event happened recently. Philip Roth, author of The Human Stain and Portnoy’s Complaint — and one who has despaired for the direction literature — has decided to stop writing. His last novel, Nemesis was published in 2010 and at 78, he feels he has nothing more to say. By his report, he will spend his time organizing his archives for his biographer, Blake Bailey. (The Week, 11/30/12 pg. 23)
I’m not certain how one gets a biographer to whom one feels obliged, but I do know there are times when I, too, wonder if everything that could be said, should be said or would be said hasn’t already been put to paper. I commend Roth for knowing when to stop. Which raises the question why I, at 76, should pursue writing.
I don’t have an answer to my question and have just published my third novel, Trompe l’Oeil. Still, I realize a lethargy of my own has set in for I was so slow to announce the book’s arrival. “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?” one friend chided.
Again, I don’t know. I haven’t been writing long and can never hope to attain Roth’s mastery. Is it modesty then that made my book promotion slow to start? Or do I sense that I have nothing to say if Roth does not? Being near his age I know it’s folly to hide from the truth, and so I find my questions troubling.
(Picture of Phillip Roth Courtesy of weblog.baltimoresun.com)