Saturday, June 12, 2010

Henry Roth On The Lower East Side

On Monday June 14 the Museum at Eldridge Street hosting a Tenement Talk on Henry Roth
Henry Roth: A panel at The Museum at Eldridge
A discussion of the works of Henry Roth, author of the classic novel Call It Sleep with Harold Augenbaum, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, Robert Weil, Executive Editor at Norton, and Willing Davidson, fiction editor at The New Yorker. THIS EVENT IS AT THE MUSEUM AT ELDRIDGE, 12 Eldridge near Division.
 According to Roth's bio he lived for a while on the lower east side. I tried to figure out where and after re-reading parts of Call It Sleep I think I did. If the novel follows fact then the address is 749 E. 9th Street. (See page 432 of the 1964 Avon edition) Supposedly Roth lived on the lower east side between ages 6-9 (1911-1914) before his family moved to East Harlem. If he did his path might have crossed Benny Leonard, Yip Harburg, Sam Levene, Jimmy Cagney and my maternal grandparents. My mother wasn't born until 1919. They all lived on 9th street, near Avenue C. Leonard and Harburg both lived amazingly at 649 . 749 East 9th  is on the NE corner of 9th and Avenue D.  Artie Shaw was living about 6 blocks away. Roth could have gone to nearby PS 36. The book frequently mentions the stables that were nearby.

from kirjasto
Henry Roth was born in Tysmenica, Galicia, Austria-Hungary. His father was a waiter. Roth moved in 1907 with his mother to New York, where his father was already living. From 1908 to 1910 Roth's Yiddish- speaking family lived in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn and in 1910 they moved to the Lower East Side, "a virtual Jewish mini-state", as Roth later noted, and four years later to Harlem, an Irish and Italian neighborhood. Roth graduated from the City College of New York. During his college years he started to write. Roth was encouraged by the poet and professor of English literature Eda Lou Walton, 12 years his senior, with whom he lived in her Greenwich Village house. There he met such writers as Hart Crane and Margaret Mead.
Call It Sleep received moderate critical praise and went soon out of print and was forgotten. The story recorded six years in the life of a Jewish immigrant boy, a six- to eight-year-old David Schearl, in a New York ghetto just prior to World War I. David is shielded by his loving mother. His life turns in a nightmare when his paranoid father is unable to hold a job. David's father is tormented by his lack of success and he becomes increasingly menacing to the son, and is finally convinced that David is not his son. After he has survived a deathly initiation game, David closes his eyes, with his mother beside him, and "one might as well call it sleep."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post. Great research!