Philip Roth’s Guide to Old Age

The Bintel Brief


By Bintel van der Brief

Published February 21, 2013, issue of February 22, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The Backward is the Forward’s annual satirical Purim edition. Enjoy!

Philip Roth, considered by many to be America’s greatest living novelist, recently announced his retirement after a distinguished career in which he authored 31 books, redefined America’s relationship with liver and garnered multiple awards.

Now, freed from the constraints of the writing life, Mr. Roth has graciously agreed to answer our readers’ questions on aging, retirement and the human condition.

Dear Philip,

Free at Last: Philip Roth thanks God he’s free at last.
getty images
Free at Last: Philip Roth thanks God he’s free at last.

How can a word factory such as yourself go from a novel a year to nothing? Don’t you miss it a little?

Perplexed in Portland

Dear Perplexed,

I still tickle the typewriter every now and then. I’ve started a food blog, called Operation Fry Cook, and the National Weather Service has asked me to name major storm events, so I’ve taken to christening them after my past sexual partners (though I must confess that Hurricane Sandy wasn’t nearly as wild as her namesake).

Philip

Dear Philip,

While I was a working scientist, I led groups that discovered three new antibiotic cures for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), predicted Higgs-Boson behavior and discovered an entirely new stable form of superconducting graphite. Yet I feel bitter that I was never awarded a Nobel Prize. As you look back, how do you feel about never having been invited to Sweden?

Ornery in Oak Ridge

Dear Ornery,

I’ve had a long and successful career. In many ways my novels were my children and they gave me great pleasure and pride. The critical acclaim and the prizes I received were merely the icing on a very satisfying cake.

Besides, when it comes to the Nobel judges, those jokers wouldn’t know literature if it slapped them across the face with a wet fish.

Philip

Dear Philip,

I was a tax lawyer for 37 years, until I retired about three years ago. I didn’t exactly love my work, but I find I’ve been going crazy now that I don’t go in to the office every day. What do you do to pass the time now that you don’t have an occupation?

Bored in Boca

Dear Bored,

I used to think I’d be the same way without writing, but now that I’ve officially put down my pen, I’m amazed at all the fun things there are to do. For example — TV. Have you seen “The Walking Dead”? It’s got action, sex, zombies, everything you could want. I’m hooked. Also — the Internet. I just got an iPhone and the stuff out there on the web is amazing. There are some really great blogs, too. The day just isn’t long enough.

So get out there and start exploring!

Philip

Dear Philip,

This is a little bit embarrassing, but here it goes. My relationship with my wife of 58 years is close and loving, but the reality is that I still want to have sex and she’s lost interest. I understand she can’t help it, but I still find myself becoming resentful. What do you suggest?

Frustrated in Fresno

Dear Frustrated,

I suggest you take matters into your own hands, as it were. As a novelist, I’ve long followed the practice of the great French writer, Honoré de Balzac, who would self-pleasure up to the brink of consummation, then cease and pour the resulting energy into his work. Well, as I was working on my last novel, “Nemesis,” I tumbled over the brink and burst the dam.

What a relief! It felt like I had broken out of prison and the sun was shining. Since then, I’ve stuck to a regular schedule of once or twice a day, and I feel great. I can talk to women without imagining them in bed, I can walk through the woods near my home and enjoy the wind on my skin without a clammy sense of foreboding. Plus, I find I don’t need to write anymore.

Philip


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.