Roth on Roth: As Philip Roth publishes his 30th book, he discusses depression, marriage, acting and surprising his readers.

JEFFREY A. TRACHTENBERG – The Wall Street Journal

Copyright The Wall Street Journal
Philip Roth’s 30th book finds him in the middle of an unusual project: a series of four short novels. His new work, “The Humbling,” is the third in the quartet, and it’s among his darkest yet.
Like his recent two short novels, 2006’s “Everyman,” and 2008’s “Indignation,” “The Humbling” is deeply melancholy—a meditation in which all things fade, happiness is a deceit, and health, both mental and physical, is fragile. The book focuses on Simon Axler, a renowned actor who has lost his gifts. His wife leaves him, he is briefly institutionalized, and after he is released, he falls into a spiritless routine. Then he meets a younger woman and is recharged, even hopeful.
At 76, Mr. Roth continues to explore the themes that have defined his work: the eroding of family ties; man’s struggle with depression and loneliness as he ages; and the expectations that frame and inevitably isolate sexual partners. Although a British gaming company placed him among the favorites for this year’s Nobel Prize, he didn’t win. “I don’t expect anything from them,” he says. “And they usually reward my expectation.”
In an hour-long interview at the New York office of his literary agent, Andrew Wylie, he talked about great actors, literature, buying old books on the Internet and the life of married couples.
The Wall Street Journal: What are you reading these days?
Mr. Roth: Mostly what I’m doing is rereading stuff that I read in my 20s, writers who were big in my reading life who I haven’t read in 50 years. I’m talking about Dostoyevsky, Faulkner, Turgenev, Conrad. I’m trying to reread the best before… I die.
Click to read more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *