Is the novel in permanent decline?
PBS Art Correspondent Jeffrey Brown speaks to Philip Roth on the release of his novel, The Plot Against America, originally broadcast 11 October 2004:
What do you see as the role of a writer in our society?
Your role is to write as well as you can. You're not advancing social causes as far as I'm concerned; you're not addressing social problems. [...] What you're advancing is [...] the cause of literature, which is one of the great lost human causes. So you do your bit; you do your bit for fiction, for the novel.
Why do you think it's become one of the 'great lost causes' of our time?
Oh my goodness. [...] I don't think in twenty or twenty-five years people will read these things at all.
Not at all?
Not at all. [...] I think it's inevitable. I think there are other things for people to do, other ways for them to be occupied, other ways for them to be imaginatively engaged that are, I think, probably far more compelling than the novel. So, I think the novel's day has come and gone, really.
I would imagine you would think this is a great loss for society?
Yes, I do. There's a lot of brilliance locked up in all those books in the library. There's a lot of human understanding. And there's a lot of language. [...] There's a lot of imaginative genius. So, yes, it's a great shame.
And what happens for you?
I'll keep doing it. Stubbornly.
Okay Philip Roth, thank you for letting us come to talk to you.