PHILIP ROTH STOPPED READING FICTION?
Posted by Pat O'Dea Rosen
Late last month, Philip Roth told a reporter with The Financial Times that he'd stopped reading fiction. "I don't read it at all. I read other things: history, biography. I don't have the same interest in fiction that I once did."
Roth's stance didn't raise many eyebrows. Fiction writers hunker down with history books and biographies in the name of research every day. Roth's recent Nemesis, for example, is set in
at a time when World War II rages and a polio epidemic terrorizes the homefront. When he met with The Financial Times' reporter, Roth was probably combing those aforementioned history books and biographies for the time period and setting of his next novel or the one after that. Newark, New Jersey
Secondly, it's common for both baby novelists and the multi-published to take a hiatus from reading the kind of books they write while cranking out first, second, or tenth drafts. Why? Because no one wants to write under the influence of another author's voice. Thus, a suspense writer will unwind with historicals, and a writer of women's fiction will devour thrillers.
Thirdly, fiction writers say the darndest things. How many of us professed to having little or no interest in young adult novels three years ago but now buy or borrow them by the sackful? And that's when we're not writing them. Those who once pooh-poohed werewolves are now writing about angels, demons, or shape-shifters. We know one great read can electrify us, change us, and divert the course of our careers.
If Roth hasn't cracked a novel since last month's interview, I hope he does soon. Happy reading, Phil.