I’m not sure how well-known Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep is outside of the United States. Then again I’m not sure how well-known it is within the United States.
In researching the book’s history, I found though it was greeted with critical acclaim when it was published in 1934, it didn’t sell well, and went out of print quickly. It was reprinted with some fanfare in 1964 when it became the first paperback to receive a front page review in The New York Times Sunday Book Review.
The 1964 paperback edition is the one I own, culled in my adolescence from my parent’s basement. Despite being a voracious reader, even of books written for adults, I found it a tough slog at first, but my father saw me with it and said, “That’s a great book.” The way he said “great” I knew he meant more than merely a good read, and I knew if I didn’t finish it, he would have been disappointed. Soon I found myself immersed in the world of the very young protagonist, six-year old David Schearl.
It’s quite a technical feat to write a novel in the close-third person point of view that manages to convey a world through a child’s eyes, while allowing the reader to see what he’s missing, what he can’t yet figure out. We’re in his head, but our perspective is always bigger than his. Continue reading Your Saturday Book Review — Call It Sleep