Customer Reviews for

Call It Sleep

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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  • Posted March 6, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Jewish-American Literature

    Henry Roth's Call It Sleep is a coming-of-age novel about a marginalized Jewish immigrant boy and his family in early 20th century New York City. In order to demonstrate the difficulties of assimilating into a new culture and language, Roth writes a very lyrical and poetic English prose when the characters speak Yiddish, but employs a very rough and phonetic writing style when the characters speak English. Sometimes the phonetic style can be tough to follow, which, quite frankly, is the point, and the constant weaving back and forth between David's reality and dream-like stream of consciousness can be tough to follow, as well. However, Roth utilizes a lot of symbolism and many other literary techniques, so it's a great novel for literary study, as well as just a good story to sit back and enjoy. It's a wonderful addition to an era of proletarian literature. Marxist critics and psychoanalysts will have a field day with many of the underlying themes.

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  • Posted February 13, 2010

    Call It Sleep

    I love this story. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story on Jewish culture and history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2008

    An undeniable classic

    When Henry Roth¿s novel Call it Sleep was published in 1934 it was hailed by some critics and readers as a minor masterpiece. Indeed, this is one of the best novels about our immigrant experience. Mr. Roth¿s compassion for his characters, his intense narrative force, and his wonderful ear for dialectic speech and poetry is evident throughout Call it Sleep. A simple story of an immigrant Jewish family during the years 1911 to about 1913, it centers on a boy named David Schearl, who lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, his feuding parents, his street friends and some relatives. At times its scenes of domestic strife may get wearisome to the reader, but then Roth introduces the colorful Aunt Bertha, who has a different temperament than David¿s gentle mother, and the fireworks begin. She is a loud, course, stout and an outspoken woman who never hesitates to stand up to her sister¿s bitter, argumentative husband. Their hard life reaches a climax during an ugly family fight wherein David, fearing his father¿s rage, runs away. He soon finds himself hiding in a train yard, but comes close to being electrocuted. He survives his harrowing experience and is brought home to his worried parents. The beauty of Call it Sleep lies in Mr. Roth¿s power of description and his deep understanding of people. The images he conjures of his old Lower East Side neighborhood, its struggling people, busy streets and loud sounds, its smells and relentless drama all come alive. Some readers may find this somewhat lengthy novel confusing at times, with several passages difficult to understand, and its dialog undecipherable when Roth weaves speech, narration and poetry into a confusing jumble, but Call it Sleep is terrific reading. An excellent introduction by Alfred Kazin and an afterward by Hanna Wirth-Nesher, a language scholar, proclaim it a masterpiece of language and literature. Most readers will happily agree.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2004

    Terrifying. But I Couldn't Stop

    It was just another audio book to check out of the library and listen to while doing boring exercises. The oddysey of a Jewish immigrant boy in early 20th century New York City became an addiction that I did not want to continue but could not stop listening to. Towards the end, I wondered if author Roth had read Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' (he even refers to a heart of darkness). The book became an addiction, one that I am glad to have experienced, but would not want to try again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2003

    A classic of American- Jewish literature

    This is a deeply poetic, tormented work the story of a young child's coming of age in a broken Jewish immigrant family. The inventiveness of language a powerful Yiddish English is one of the great attractions of the book. Roth learned from Joyce the stream- of - consciousness and uses it masterfully . What is hard to take, and this is the essence of the story is the cruelty of the family relationships .But somehow through it all a painful beauty emerges. As is well known Roth wrote this book when young and did not write another for sixty years. But this is the kind of book, one book which justifies a lifetime of writing, the kind of work most writers can only dream to achieve.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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