Phillip Roth Hangs Up His Pen, While Kent Haruf and George Saunders Have New Books in the Offing

So on the literary beat there’s an interesting tidbit in the news this week (delayed, as you’ll see, from our attention), in that the great American novelist—he did name one of his books that: The Great American Novel (1973)—Phillip Roth has decided to call it quits at age 79, here. Roth wrote many novels, my favorites being Goodbye, Columbus (1959) and Portnoy’s Complaint (1969), which were major literary works of their time. Both pin a particular brand of East Coast male wriggling on the wall, and have some laugh-out-loud funny moments to boot. I remember reading Portnoy’s Complaint in high school, when it was all the rage for being a “dirty” book. And I applaud and sympathize his honesty in this quote: “Writing is frustration — it’s daily frustration, not to mention humiliation. It’s just like baseball: you fail two-thirds of the time … I can’t face any more days when I write five pages and throw them away. I can’t do that anymore.”
For all of us who are still determined to face that frustration every day (and I’m one of them, putting my nose to the grindstone as soon as I post this diversion from real work), it’s good to hear that two of our best fiction writers have new books out in the coming months: George Saunders has a new book of stories out in January, titled Tenth of December (which is a great story itself, published in the New Yorker a year ago), and Kent Haruf has a new novel out in February, titled Benediction. That’s the kind of news to make a reader’s day, and to make all the frustration worthwhile.
And to keep things in perspective, I asked this horse her opinion on Phillip Roth’s retirement, and she said, “I liked his early novels best.” So there you have it, from the horse’s mouth.

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