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Roth Retires But Wolfe, Wouk Among Authors Past 80

HILLEL ITALIE

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Philip Roth, 79 and looking fit in recent photographs, has said that after looking back on his long and prolific career he decided he had written enough. The novel "Nemesis," published in 2010, apparently will be his last.

Other authors, some of them years older, are carrying on.

Elmore Leonard, winner this year of an honorary National Book Award, is 87 and says the prize inspired him to write more novels. The winner of the National Book Award for poetry, David Ferry, is 88. Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, 81, had a novel out in the spring and has said she's working on a new one. Tom Wolfe's "Back to Blood" came out this fall and he has more fiction and nonfiction planned.

"Being an octogenarian is just a hobby of mine," Wolfe, 81, says with a laugh, "something I do at night."

Just this fall, new works came out from 97-year-old novelist Herman Wouk, 93-year-old poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and 90-year-old historian Bernard Bailyn. Author-playwright A.E. Hotchner, 92, has a book of essays about aging due in February. The first novel in more than 30 years by James Salter, 87, will be published in April. The first novel by William Gass, 88, since 1995, is expected in March.

"I think that the barriers have pretty well fallen," says Hotchner, whose career dates back to adapting the stories of his friend Ernest Hemingway for 1950s television productions. "When Hemingway died, he was 61 and he really looked old. Writers used to fade out by the time they were 70. A phenomenon like Herman Wouk was virtually unheard of."

Hotchner and others say that thanks to better medical care and cleaner living, creative expectancy has never been higher. Nathaniel Hawthorne was just 59 when he died, in 1864, and had described himself as "wrinkled with time and trouble." Some of the greatest 20th century authors, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to John Steinbeck to William Faulkner, were heavy drinkers and never made it to 70. Gass likes to joke that authors now live longer because of "better booze."

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