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Weekly Roundup: Roth on retirement, the passing of Evan S. Connell and a revamp of America's National Book Awards

Weekly Roundup: Roth on retirement, the passing of Evan S. Connell and a revamp of America's National Book Awards

The 2011 Man Booker International Prize-winner, Philip Roth, announced his retirement from writing last November and, unfortunately, he is not regretting it. “I wake up in the morning, get a big glass of orange juice and read for an hour-and-a-half. I've never done that in my life”, he says. Talking to the Television Critics Association he also looked back at his career and picked out his favourite novels: Sabbath's Theater and American Pastoral. He recalled too his mother's withering put-down when he warned his parents that thanks to its graphic sexual content his 1969 book, Portnoy's Complaint, was likely to cause a bit of a stink: Roth mère merely commented that he had ‘delusions of grandeur’.

The death has recently been announced of Evan S. Connell, the highly accomplished but reticent American novelist who was one of the finalists for the 2009 Man Booker International Prize (won by Alice Munro). Connell was best known for Mrs Bridge (1959) and Mr Bridge (1969), novels about emotional repression that the Merchant Ivory team turned into a film starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. He was a writer of great variety whose work encompassed poetry, a biography of Francisco Goya and a study of General Custer's Last Stand. An obituary can be found here.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then the Man Booker is getting it right. The New York Times reports a revamping of America's National Book Awards using the MB as its model. One of the board members cited both the way the Man Booker is integrated into literary culture and its effect on sales as reasons for emulation. They are also mooting whether to broaden the pool of judges from simply writers to include critics, booksellers and other literary professionals too. They have clearly found out what the MB has known for 44 years: novelists can't be left to decide things on their own, they need watching like hawks.