The most celebrated American author is at the height of his powers in his latest novel, The Humbling. In a rare video interview—his only for this book—Philip Roth sits down with Tina Brown for The Daily Beast's new Web series, The Beast Bar, to talk about writing, mortality, politics, and why he thinks the novel is a dying animal.
Roth on Writing and Rewriting
The Humbling tells the story of famous actor who’s suddenly unable to act; the story is driven by the book’s first line: “He’d lost his magic.” Roth describes how, even at this stage of his career, he fears for the loss of ideas. "When I finish a book, I think What will I do? Where will I get an idea?," Roth says. "A kind of low-level panic sets in."
The Art of Writing About Sex
Sex plays no less a critical role in The Humbling than in many of Roth’s other works, though there’s a scene more graphic and striking than in any of his recent books. “You’re not setting out to arouse anybody,” Roth says of writing sex scenes. “You don’t want to fall into clichés.”
Roth: Will the Kindle Save the Novel? Not Really
He’s devoted his life to creating novels, but he’s pessimistic about their future. “The book can’t compete with the screen,” Roth says, and the Kindle won’t change that. “It couldn’t compete beginning with the movie screen. It couldn’t compete with the television screen, and it can’t compete with the computer screen.”
If You Think Turning 60 Was Fun…
“The proximity of death,” Roth says, may not be a source of daily brooding, but he certainly thinks about it. As for his goals for the rest of his life, “I don’t care about X more books. I care about being occupied in writing.”
Is Barack Obama a Good Writer?
Roth has shied away from politics—especially from criticism of the Bush administration. “I’m an Obama supporter. And if you’re an Obama supporter, that means you had a hard time during the Bush years,” Roth says. He also offers his reaction to Obama’s Dreams From My Father.
Looking Back at Portnoy’s Complaint
Roth rarely speaks publicly about the book that early in his career made him not just an acclaimed writer, but a notorious one. “ Portnoy’s Complaint was a big marker,” he says. “I don’t have any regrets about writing it or publishing it.”
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Click here to read a transcript of the interview.
Tina Brown is the founder and editor in chief of The Daily Beast. She is the author of the 2007 New York Times best seller The Diana Chronicles. Brown is the former editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Talk magazines and host of CNBC's Topic A with Tina Brown .
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