May 20, 2014

Philip Roth is retiring from everything


Philip Roth in 1973. (via Wikimedia)

Philip Roth in 1973. (via Wikimedia)

Philip Roth continues retiring. Roth announced he was finished with writing way back in 2012.  Since then, he has been the subject of a 90-minute PBS documentary and a biography; he has also taken part in an interview or two.

A week ago, Roth declared he had given his last public reading, and, in a BBC interview airing on Tuesday, Roth tells the camera that it is “absolutely [his] last appearance on any stage anywhere.”

The headlines and publicity surrounding Roth’s retirement have, at times, been reminiscent of the sort of coverage received by professional athletes.  But, unlike Michael Jordan (two retirements), or Roger Clemens (three), Roth has kept to his word.  His last novel, Nemesis, appeared in 2010.  While I’d love to see another such book, I have an image of Michael Jordan in a Washington Wizards jersey that I can’t get out of my head.  It’s hard to root against another Roth novel, but  it seems that––for the sake of the author––we should root for a long, happy retirement.

Members of the media, I imagine, hold out hope that Roth will go back on his word. What, after all, could possibly be left to cover, now that the “last interview” has been taped? The “last letter?” The “last sighting of Roth in Manhattan?” It seems, to me, that just one “last” is left: the “last Philip Roth retirement article.”


Ben Sandman is a Melville House intern