Phillip Roth Has Stopped Reading Novels
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Some months ago the novelist Philip Roth told an interviewer that he had stopped reading fiction. Here was arguably America's greatest living novelist confessing that he had lost interest in novels and short stories, and much preferred to read history or biography.
"I've wised up," said Roth. Beyond that, he did not elaborate.
Not long after I graduated from college, I switched from about an 80/20 fiction/non-fiction split to one that was around 50/50. When I hit 30, though, the split was more like 90/10 in favor of non-fiction, where it has stayed ever since.
Maybe it is a good thing that precocious readers read the master works at early ages – and then, as our brains mature, and get more interesting in their own right, leave off and address realities: taking whatever knowledge or insight we gained from reading other people’s versions and applying it to our own. Novels certainly had their place in the formation of my thought and world view – setting the foundation, perhaps, but building the edifice itself is not work you contract out to others.