Philip Roth reflects on novel's decline and "Nemesis"

Tue Oct 5, 2010 4:21pm EDT
 
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - American novelist Philip Roth dislikes e-books and the distracting influences of modern technology, which he feels diminishes the ability to appreciate the beauty and aesthetic experience of reading books on paper.

The author, celebrated for such novels as "The Human Stain," believes there is nothing anyone can do about it. Yet, even as he shares his belief about new technology, it is hard not to consider that by writing shorter books -- something he has done regularly since his 1959 debut "Goodbye, Columbus" -- Roth has long been ahead of his time.

"It is a shame. It is also what is happening, and there is nothing at all to do about it," the 77-year-old Roth told Reuters, discussing the changing publishing landscape in the digital age during an interview for his new book, "Nemesis," which is released in the United States and Britain on Tuesday.

"The concentration, the focus, the solitude, the silence, all the things that are required for serious reading are not within people's reach anymore," he said.

Beginning with film in the 20th Century, then television, then computers, and more recently social media networks such as Facebook, the reader is now utterly distracted, he said.

"Now it is the multiple screens and there is no competing against it," Roth said.

Roth does not plan to buy any kind of e-reading device such as Amazon's Kindle. "I don't see what the point is for me," he said. "I like to read in bed at night and I like to read with a book. I can't stand change anyway."

Among the publishing chatter about a possible impending death of the popular, longer novel and the growth of novellas due to e-readers, "Nemesis" -- clocking in at about 56,000 words -- is Roth's latest in a cycle of short novels.   Continued...

 
<p>Author Philip Roth poses in New York September 15, 2010. American novelist Roth dislikes e-books and the distracting influences of modern technology, which he feels diminishes the ability to appreciate the beauty and aesthetic experience of reading books on paper. REUTERS/Eric Thayer</p>