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Author of the week: Philip Roth

Philip Roth is calling it quits.

Philip Roth is calling it quits, said David Daley in Salon.com. In a development that initially escaped notice in the U.S., the novelist said in a French magazine interview published last month that he hadn’t written any fiction since 2010’s Nemesis, and had no plans to start again. “To tell you the truth, I’m done,” he told Les InRocks. The decision came after he spent four years rereading his favorite authors and then his own books. He read them in backwards sequence, passing through The Human Stain on his way to Portnoy’s Complaint, where he stopped. “I wanted to see if I had wasted my time writing,” he said. “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.”

The surprise here is that Roth for so long seemed unstoppable, said Eduardo Kaplan in WSJ.com. That’s changed. “I have dedicated my life to the novel. Enough is enough! I no longer feel this fanaticism to write that I have experienced in my life.” He also recognizes his limitations. “If I write another book, it will probably be a flop. Who needs to read another mediocre book? I’m 78, and I don’t know anything about America today. I watch it on TV. But I no longer live it.” Not content to leave his legacy completely untended, Roth says he’ll spend the next few years organizing his archives for his biographer, Blake Bailey. “If I die without leaving him something, where is he going to start?”

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