Philip Roth: Loyal to Houghton Mifflin, Lecherous Protagonists


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which in the fall announced a temporary freeze on acquisitions that led its own editor-in-chief, Becky Saletan, to jump ship, and many others to speculate the venerable firm was headed for the crapper, just announced that it's managed to hold on to Philip Roth. On the 50th anniversary of his first book, Goodbye, Columbus (also published by Houghton), he's busily working on not one, but two novels for Harcourt.

His 30th book, The Humbling, set for later this year, is described (surprise, surprise) as "a shattering account of an aging stage actor who has lost his way and into whose bereft life bursts a counterplot of unusual erotic desire." There's a twist, we're told, that could potentially offend a whole new group of readers. We're more excited for the next one, called Nemesis, in which he'll return to historical fiction. The novel, about "a wartime polio epidemic in the summer of 1944 and the effect it has on a closely-knit, family-oriented Newark community and its children," will be published in 2010. The late Roth is a machine. Who does he think he is, Joyce Carol Oates?