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In 2012, legendary American novelist Phillip Roth announced that, after publishing nearly three dozen books over his illustrious career, he would retire from writing fiction. And in a new interview with the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet — published Sunday in The New York Times — Roth reflected on his life's work, its place in the American zeitgeist, and his plans for life after writing.
In the interview, Roth confirmed he'd recently reread all of his works, and delivered a "verdict" on his his own writing:
When I decided to stop writing about five years ago I did, as you say, sit down to reread the 31 books I'd published between 1959 and 2010. I wanted to see whether I'd wasted my time. You never can be sure, you know.
My conclusion, after I'd finished, echoes the words spoken by an American boxing hero of mine, Joe Louis. He was world heavyweight champion from the time I was 4 until I was 16. He had been born in the Deep South, an impoverished black kid with no education to speak of, and even during the glory of the undefeated 12 years, when he defended his championship an astonishing 26 times, he stood aloof from language. So when he was asked upon his retirement about his long career, Joe sweetly summed it up in just 10 words. "I did the best I could with what I had." [New York Times]
Head over to the Times to read the entire fascinating conversation.