Accepting a literary prize in Toronto last month, Alice Munro, the acclaimed short-story writer — “our Chekhov,” as Cynthia Ozick has called her — winner of the Man Booker International Prize and just about every important North American literary award for which she is eligible, told a newspaper interviewer, “I’m probably not going to write anymore.”
The article goes on to say that Munro is following the example of writers Margaret Drabble and Philip Roth, who retired four years ago and last year, respectively. She even cites Roth as an inspiration, saying he “seems so happy now.” The romantic in me, the one who still gets a little flutter in his heart every time he walks into a new bookstore, is a little disappointed in this trend: Aren't writers, in the end, supposed to be found slumped over their desks, inky quill in hand? But it's probably a practical decision. People lose their sharpness as they age—Munro is 82, Roth is 80—and all a writer really has, after all, is her consciousness. Maybe my resistance to these retirements is the fact that I just want more books out of these people.