Next Up: Call It Sleep
At the time of this writing, I’ve read the prologue to Call It Sleep by Henry Roth. The prologue is about 10 pages, and it almost made me cry.
Of course, had I cried I would have cried manly, Chuck Norris tears, but that’s neither here nor there.
So to say that Call It Sleep starts strong is an understatement. The book details a family of Jewish immigrants and their experiences in New York city in the early 1900s. In just the prologue, Roth conveys the sense of isolation and “foreignness” that these immigrants must have felt in “The Golden Land” of New York.
Anyway, here are some facts about Call It Sleep and its author, Henry Roth:
- Call It Sleep was published in 1934 to critical acclaim.
- Despite its critical popularity, the novel sold poorly and was out of print for nearly 30 years until Irving Howe reviewed the novel in 1964 on the cover of The New York Times Book Review.
- Since being republished, the paperback version of the novel published by Avon (now Harper Collins) has sold more than 1 million copies.
- It’s widely considered a masterpiece of Jewish-American literature.
- Call It Sleep was Roth’s first published novel. His second, Nature’s First Green, didn’t come until 1979–45 years later.
- Redemption: The Life of Henry Roth was Roth’s first published biography in 2006, written by Stephen Kellman.
- Roth died in 1995 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
This novel has been heaped with praise by some literary heavyweights. For example:
“One of the few genuinely distinguished novels written by a twentieth-century American.” –Irving Howe, The New York Times Book Review
“Arguably the most distinguished work of fiction ever written about immigrant life…Surely the most lyrically authentic novel in American literature about a young boy’s coming to consciousness.” –Lis Harris, The New Yorker
After venturing into some more lighter fare with Ubik and The Sot-Weed Factor, it appears I’m heading back into the well-known world of dark, depressing literature. But I’m used to it. And I’m actually looking forward to this one.
Any thoughts on Call It Sleep or Henry Roth?