In 1999 David Cronenberg made the movie Existenz. In simplest terms, it was the story of getting lost in a virtual reality video game and never being sure of where the fiction ended and the reality resumed. There have been many books and movies that play with this theme of not knowing reality from fantasy. In 1988 Masato Takeno wrote a piece of short fiction titled The Yamada Diary. Predating Existenz, Takeno develops the story of a young student who loses himself in the fiction of a video game called The Yamada Diary.
We were just considering Roth’s Nemesis in an earlier post and little did we know that Nemesis would be Roth’s last novel. He has announced his retirement from writing. Considering his age—80—this seems like a wonderful idea. I will miss the occasional new novel from the writer but I do have a few to catch up on and being retired myself, I certainly wouldn’t want a concern for a few hours of my reading pleasure to interfere with Roth’s well earned retirement.
In an interview with the French press, Roth revealed that he was no longer interested in fiction, both reading and writing. I think I know how he might feel: as much as I love to read and as much pleasure as I get from reading and discussing books, I find myself sitting idly on the lanai watching the leaves turn color, the pattern of splashes the fountain makes in the lagoon, the shadow of a large wading bird soaring just behind the tall pines. There might even be a book in my hand and a paragraph only half read under my finger, but I drift away from the fiction and stare at the real world until hunger drives me into the kitchen for a fried bologna sandwich (white bread a mayo, of course) or my dog Ricky decides to remove my kneecap with his raspy tongue as a prelude to me taking him for a walk.
What I see beyond the grass, over the pond, between the trees, and floating in the sky, is reality; everything I read is filtered through the mind of man and it is therefore fiction. Even the textbooks used in the schools around this country are fiction (especially in Texas).