A former Iowa Writers Fiction Workshop participant who studied under Roth wonders how a teacher who instilled in him a deep love of fiction can be throwing in the towel.
The recent news that iconic novelist Philip Roth has stopped writing fiction knocked me back half a lifetime, to the day I took my seat in the Iowa Writers Fiction Workshop and watched starry-eyed as a tall, intense young man entered the classroom, snapped the creases of his chinos and settled himself on the edge of the instructor's desk. "I'm Philip Roth," he announced.
Of that time in his career, Roth would recall how, "still in my twenties, I imagined fiction to be something like a religious calling, and literature a kind of sacrament." And through two semesters, he changed my life not only as a career writer, but even more so as a reader of fiction. He instilled in my worshipful mind that fiction was the inner light. Over the years, he would confirm it for me in an avalanche of luminous novels and stories.
So it was bad enough when Roth told a London newspaper in 2011 that he had stopped reading fiction in favor of "other things." He was asked why. His quoted answer: "I don't know. I wised up."