Sunday, September 30, 2007

Philip Roth senior editor Tom Nissley spoke with Philip Roth about his new novel, Exit Ghost, his long relationship with his fictional surrogate, and the difficulties of aging for novelists.

The first two exchanges from the interview: Your last book, Everyman, was about the deterioration of a man's body. Your new one, despite the minor outpatient procedure that begins the action, seems to be much more about the dissolution of a man's creative force. Is that the way you see it?

Philip Roth: I'd say it's in part about the dissolution of his creative force. He also has suffered the consequences of a prostate surgery for cancer, so as you remember the book begins, he's coming down to New York to try to get some help from a procedure that will alter his incontinence. Prostrate surgery very often results in incontinence and impotence, and in Zuckerman's case it's resulted in both. So there is once again a man of years suffering physical ailments, or the consequences of them. You're right, however, that what he feels happening to him is that his mind is becoming, in his word, "disordered," and his memory's shaky, and some of this causes difficulties in the book. It seems like they play off of each other. With Jamie, the young writer he meets, there seems to be a relationship between his impotence and his creative interest in her.

Roth: He's interested in her as a character, you're perfectly right about that, but it's because he's fallen prey to sexual enchantment, and she is not interested in him in that way, and so he goes off and writes scenes between the two of them that don't take place in reality but are enactments of flirtation doomed by his condition.

Read the entire interview.

Learn more about Exit Ghost.

--Marshal Zeringue