Philip Roth (Photograph by Chris Maluszynski/Moment/Redux)
Posting may be light for a couple of weeks because I'm travelling (I'm currently in Hong Kong). I see there have been some news explosions since I left home base. First, and most bizarrely, David Petraeus resigns over an affair. Then the boss of the BBC resigns after 54 days in the job (being skilled at strategic ignorance will get you so far but it doesn't serve you so well at the top). Finally, and perhaps most momentously, Philip Roth resigns from novel-writing.
A few years ago Roth, now 78, engaged on a kind of audit of his life's work. First, he reread his favourite authors (Conrad, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Hemingway). Then he reread all of his own novels:
I wanted to see if I had wasted my time writing. And I thought it was more or less a success. At the end of his life, the boxer Joe Louis said, ‘I did the best I could with what I had.’ It’s exactly what I would say of my work: I did the best I could with what I had.
That is as much as anyone can ask for, or expect of themselves. So now he's done:
If I write a new book it will probably be a failure. Who needs to read one more mediocre book?
Ah, how I wish more artists - novelists, playwrights, musicians - took that attitude. It's the very definition of resigning with honour.