To younger writers who are missing the boat, I want to say: Read Roth. Learn from his oeuvre and from his life, and from how the two have intersected. Learn how a writer can keep pace with America and tell its story as well as his own, again and again.
Through Mr. Roth's words, the complex human soul -- yours, mine -- has been scrutinized. Through the vivid, ironic, sharp words of a genius who told us once: words, being words, only approximate the real thing.
So, Philip Roth is calling it quits after almost 60 years of writing. I don't want to suggest that Roth was being disingenuous about his retirement, but I do think that there is more going on than a mere statement of fact. After all, what writer announces his departure?
Dear Mr. Roth, please write. I'd like you to rage, rage against the dying of light. What happened to the legacy of our best grandparents, professors and crusty editors, skilled, in the arts of torment, demand and attitude?