Roth and the fate of the Great American Novel

Why literature is in decline
Philip Roth, shown last summer at his home in Connecticut, says Saul Bellow's death last year prompted him to start writing his new novel.

In light of his most recent novel, The Humbling, The Guardian website speculates on the 'celebration'/'commemoration' of writer Philip Roth, before pondering the fate of the great American novel:
And this points to the more urgent question that will crop up increasingly in coming years. Despite Roth wanting to have them all shot, critics will be asking: can we imagine a world without Roth? "I can't see an American writer coming along who is replacing Roth," says Jay Prosser, who teaches American literature at the University of Leeds. "He writes with his ear – his novels are completely driven by his voice." There is a singularity of voice in Roth's work which is hard to find elsewhere. The current crop of high-profile American writers – such as Dave Eggers, Jonathan Safran Foer and the late David Foster Wallace – have raised technicality to an art form, but it would be hard to argue that they drive their novels home with the same ferocious intensity.

And a piece of American history will also fall into the sea when Roth goes. Now the last one standing from the big-hitting male American writers who shot to fame alongside him, Roth came of age when writing the Great American Novel was still an embodiment of the American dream. Tom Wolfe wrote in 1972 that the novel was "one of the last of those superstrokes, like finding gold, through which an American could, overnight, utterly tranform his destiny". [Read More]