The Limits of Shyness
I've always wondered how difficult it must be to maintain a reclusive persona in the highly publicized world of book publishing. J.D. Salinger, now 89, has managed it pretty well. So has Thomas Pynchon. Cormac McCarthy held out for years -- his wife Annie DeLisle complained that they were living in virtual poverty even as he turned down fat fees to talk about his books.
"He would tell them that everything he had to say was right there on the page," she said wistfully. "So we would eat beans for another week."
And yet when "No Country for Old Men" won the Oscar for best picture, there was McCarthy, his son at his side, leaping up and down for the cameras, whooping as loudly as any L.A. wannabe. I guess there's a limit to shyness. One thing or another is bound to bring the mole out of the hole.
Which brings me to Philip Roth. As Roth has matured into a better writer (American Pastoral and Indignation are as good as anything he's ever written), he's been more and more loath to be interviewed, tour, go through the publicity grind. Tomorrow, on Sept. 16, he reverses this trend by appearing in an unprecedented live interview blitz to be aired simultaneously in bookstores around the country.
So here's my question: Does an eminent, financially comfortable, otherwise reclusive author do this to please his readers? Or is he simply succumbing to the machine?
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