Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Henry Roth On The Lower East Side 4

from Redemption: the life of Henry Roth By Steven G. Kellman and here I thought I was such a "big macher" because I figured out where Roth lived on the les when the information was available in his biography! Last night I heard a discussion about Roth's last book, An American Type . I have to admit I just don't get why Call It Sleep is considered such a masterpiece. There all kinds of reasons given by the panelists as to the motivation for his later writings. The discussion last night barely touched upon the aspect of Roth's life cited below. No wonder he was seeking redemption! By many accounts Roth wasn't the great guy that his editor, Robert Weil, was describing. For most people it is tough to rise above a brutalized childhood (Roth's father) to become the sweetheart that Weil encountered. An excerpt from the nyobserver
A Sister's Angry Letter Unravels Roth Incest Tale, By Elizabeth Manus, May 17, 1998
Did the late Henry Roth, like Ira Stigman, his fictional alter ego in the four-volume autobiographical novel Mercy of a Rude Stream , carry on an incestuous relationship with his sister? A newly revealed letter written to Roth by his younger sister, Rose Broder, and a curious contract agreement between the two, may finally help settle that question. The true nature of Roth's relationship with his sister–hinted at by Roth, tugged at by critics–has been pointed to as the reason for the decades-long writer's block that followed Roth's 1934 publication of the classic Call It Sleep . While finally writing, in veiled form, about brother-sister incest in 1995's A Diving Rock on the Hudson may have unblocked Roth's creative spirit, it unblocked something else in his sister. So troubled was Broder by the portrayal of Ira's lustful relationship with his younger sister that she threatened to sue Roth and his publisher, though it was unclear on what grounds. Eventually, Broder released Roth from the threat by accepting $10,000, and something of arguably even greater value: his agreement to edit out sibling incest material from the already written manuscripts of the remaining two volumes of his opus.

No comments: