Good news, God's news

Philiph Roth, now 73, is in excellent health. He had back surgery a year ago but is fully recovered. He exercises faithfully, avoids red meat and consumes a morning ration of Great Grains cereal. Proof of his fitness is the jacket photo for his new novel, "Everyman," which is being published by Houghton Mifflin. This is the first time in ages that Mr. Roth, famously private and publicity-averse, has allowed his likeness to appear on one of his books.

The reason for Mr. Roth's pre-emptive photographic strike is that "Everyman" is a book about mortality. It begins in a graveyard and ends on the operating table. And Mr. Roth is hoping that the pictorial evidence on the book's jacket will stave off autobiographical interpretations. "I figure this will halve the number of phone calls from kind friends saying, 'I didn't know you were so sick,' " he said recently.
[NYT, April 25]

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