Philip Roth announced his retirement from the writing life last fall, a few months shy of his 80th birthday. Now, on a computer in his New York City apartment, hangs a Post-It note that reads, “The struggle with writing is over.” There won’t be another novel. There won’t be a 29th.
Admirers of Philip Roth may have to settle for the occasional odd publication, like the eulogy Roth published in the New York Times in April, when his high school teacher and long-time friend passed away. His name was Bob Lowenstein. He taught at Weequahic High School in Newark, New Jersey, and Roth came to know him like this:
Bob was my homeroom teacher. This meant that I saw him first thing in the morning, every single day of the school year. I was never to take a language course with him — I had Mademoiselle Glucksman for French and Señorita Baleroso for Spanish — but I didn’t forget him. Who at Weequahic did? Consequently, when it came his turn to be mauled in Congress’s anti-Communist crusade of the 1940s and 1950s, I followed his fate as best I could in the stories that I had my parents clip from the Newark newspapers and mail to me.
I don’t remember how we came together again around 1990, about 40 years after I’d graduated Weequahic High. I was back in America from having lived largely abroad for some 12 years, and either I wrote to him about something or he wrote to me about something and we met for lunch at Zelda and his house in West Orange. In the spirit of Bob Lowenstein, I will put the matter in plain language, directly as I can: I believe we fell in love with each other.
In recent weeks, Roth visited the headquarters of Audible.com — also based in Newark, New Jersey — and recorded an audio version of his tribute. You can download it for free at Audible (or hear an excerpt below), and, for every download, Audible will donate $1 to the Newark Public Library, capping at $25,000. The download requires registering with Audible.
Separately, if you want to download a novel by Philip Roth, you can always head over to Audible.com and register for a 30-day free trial. You can download any audiobook for free. Then, when the trial is over, you can continue your Audible subscription (as I do — I love the service), or cancel it, and still keep the audio book. And, by the way, whenever someone signs up for a free trial, it helps support Open Culture. Also find more great reads in our collection of Free Audio Books.