An interview with Philip Roth

When Philip Roth pokes his head around the conference room door of the New York office of his literary agency, he looks familiar to me — but not because his photograph gazes out from the jackets of his books. I grew up on the Upper West Side of this city, where Roth keeps an apartment these days for when the winter weather at his Connecticut home becomes too severe. He appears familiar because — his tall frame a little stooped, his look a little anxious — he looks, at first, like any number of the older guys you see trundling up Broadway, heading into the Fairway supermarket and peering into boxes of eggs. But then, after the obligatory handshaking and hellos, he settles into a chair, straightens his spine, fixes his dark eyes on me and all thoughts of Fairway are banished from my mind. I tell him I’m glad to meet him; that I get a feeling giving interviews isn’t his favourite occupation. “I have worse things to do,” he says, but I am not convinced.