Remembering Henry Roth

By Erika Dreifus on October 6, 2015

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Next week will mark the twentieth anniversary of the passing of Henry Roth. As The New York Times noted shortly after Roth’s death on October 13, 1995, Roth was a novelist “known for his masterpiece ‘Call It Sleep,’ an exact, unsparing portrait of the lives of poor Jewish immigrants in New York City in the early decades of this century, and then for experiencing perhaps the most mysterious career in modern American letters.”

You can learn more about that mysterious career in the latest addition to our series of literary discussions: Richard Klin’s essay-review of the first volume in Roth’s Mercy of a Rude Stream series. Klin’s perspective is unusual: He served as production editor (“the unsung hero of book publishing”) for the book that followed Call It Sleep–sixty years after the first book’s publication. And as this anniversary approaches, we are proud to share his thoughts and memories regarding Roth and his work.

  • Thanks for posting this and the link to Richard Klin – quite interesting!

    • Erika Dreifus

      Agreed! We were thrilled when Richard approached us to write this.

  • david rosenberg

    Some comments for Richard Klin, though first: Always grateful for any engagement with Henry Roth. Richard, A great fifth volume of “Mercy” was published a couple years ago, and there’s more in the works. Did you have access to the master ms that the St.M novels were cut from? Also, I wouldn’t say the Ecclesias conversations are so strikingly innovative. Henry was just wonderfully up-to-date on postmodernism. Finally, I wouldn’t say Mercy has “less fizz” than Call It Sleep. In fact, it is more sophisticated. Champagne has less fizz than Coca Cola–take your pick!

    • Richard Klin

      Thank you for your nice comments. We’ll have to agree to disagree about the fizz factor of MERCY–and I won’t even begin to discuss champagne vs. Coke. I worked from the master manuscript–only for the first MERCY. I returned it to the editor, Bob Weil, who I think donated much of the material to the Henry Roth archive (and I suddenly can’t remember where the archive is located).