Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Chill Hand of Mortality

In an interview published in The New Yorker, part of the publicity for his new novel Exit Ghost, Philip Roth says this:

. . . at this stage of the game I’d much rather spend my reading time - as I have been doing - revisiting, for the last time around, other writers, like Conrad and Hemingway and Faulkner and Turgenev.

So now, in addition to books (some as yet unwritten) I haven’t yet read, books I don’t ever want to or need to read, and books I’ve read but won’t ever read again, I have to look forward to a time when I have to concentrate on books I really must reread, one last time, before it’s too late. At least, if I’m carried off in the middle of rereading one of my favourites, I won’t have to worry about never knowing how it ends.

In the same issue, Louis Menand beautifully evokes that old, still-potent romance:

. . . I often stopped for gas at a service area on the Mass Pike about fifty miles from Boston. It’s fairly high above sea level there, in the lower ranges of the Berkshires, and I would stand at the pump in the dark looking at the stars in the cold clear sky as the semis roared past and with the wind in my hair, and I liked to imagine that I was a character in Kerouac’s novel, lost to everyone I knew and to everyone who knew me, somewhere in America, on the road.


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