From Bondage

Overview

Completed in the last year of his life, From Bondage is perhaps Roth's most profound work, for like Tolstoy in The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Roth examines his own imminent passing in the most plaintive of ways, telling the story of the old man, Ira Stigman, who, in spite of his physical frailties, finds solace in re-creating the lost love affair of his youth. Capturing the bohemian downtown world of Manhattan in the 1920s, Roth has set the stage for one of the most memorable of literary romances. At its heart, From ...
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1996 Hardcover First Edition; First Printing New in New dust jacket 0312143419. Book and DJ are New, first edition, first printing, Laurie 21, ; Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume ... III; 9.10 X 6.30 X 1.50 inches; 397 pages. Read more Show Less

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Overview

Completed in the last year of his life, From Bondage is perhaps Roth's most profound work, for like Tolstoy in The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Roth examines his own imminent passing in the most plaintive of ways, telling the story of the old man, Ira Stigman, who, in spite of his physical frailties, finds solace in re-creating the lost love affair of his youth. Capturing the bohemian downtown world of Manhattan in the 1920s, Roth has set the stage for one of the most memorable of literary romances. At its heart, From Bondage is the mesmerizing love triangle involving young Ira, an impressionable neophyte from Jewish Harlem, and Edith Welles, a sophisticated professor of English, a muse to starving poets and lovelorn men, who sweeps Ira into her world of soigne parties and literary debaucheries. Edith, as the old man Ira relays the story, is still physically involved with her former student Larry Gordon when she finds herself attracted to Ira, who is Larry's best friend. To complicate the matter even more, Edith is also carrying on a simultaneous affair with Lewlyn, the separated husband of the aspiring anthropologist Marcia Meede. Fictionalizing the lives of the celebrities of the 1920s, including such burgeoning literary figures as Hart Crane, Louise Bogan, Leonie Adams, and Margaret Mead, Roth creates an unforgettable portrait of New York where "the lights of Manhattan twisted toward him across the rippling water like a gimlet." Perhaps the last witness to this age, Roth paints a gentile and genteel world that contrasts so vividly with the seemingly coarse, abject slums of the Pushcart District from which he had sprung. Ira, then a young man, is the observant witness to the spectacle that unfolds, seeking desperately to ingratiate himself into this world of sophisticates, yet hopelessly tethered to the tenement roots he cannot escape.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Henry Roth's literary reputation would be secure on the strength of his remarkable first novel, Call It Sleep , published in 1934 and but largely unknown until it appeared in paperback in 1964 and became an instant classic. Roth's silence in the intervening years has been broken only by a collection of his shorter pieces, Shifting Landscape . This novel, then, is a signal event, especially since its protagonist, Ira Stigman, is clearly the same young boy who served as Roth's fictional alter ego in the first book, and since it begins roughly where the earlier novel ended--in the teeming immigrant slums of New York City during the first decades of the 20th century, a time and place that Roth captures with pungent language and palpable immediacy. Roth's long struggle with this material is reflected in first-person passages interpolated into the narrative in which the now elderly Ira addresses his word processor (called Ecclesias), ruminates about the difficulties that stilled his pen, and makes references to an earlier version of this work, which he is rewriting as he goes along. He laments the crisis of identity, the ``loss of affirmation'' and the self-loathing that crippled his imaginative powers, events that he touches on in the third-person narrative. Again we encounter the violent, penny-pinching father, the supportive mother, the loutish relatives. Ira's memories range over family strife, his school days, the dangers of the street, the disruption of WW I, and they end--somewhat abruptly--after the book's best extended scenes, set in a fancy grocery store where the adolescent Ira works after high school. This is the most forceful part of the book, a sustained, controlled piece of writing that masterfully evokes the temper of the times--the advent of Prohibition, the casual bigotry and racism of blue-collar workers and veterans--in the process of limning a group of memorable character portraits. Since this is to be the first volume of six, the story ends ambiguously, after repeatedly hinting at but never getting to ``the disastrous impairment of the psyche'' and ``the accident . . . the terrible deformation that was its consequence.'' Thus it is reasonable to think that this novel may be more satisfying when read as part of the six-volume whole. BOMC and QPB selections. (Jan.)
Library Journal
After nearly six decades of silence, Roth, whose only previous novel, Call It Sleep (1934), has been hailed as one of the classics of 20th-century American literature, returns with proof that his earlier effort was no fluke. In this first of a projected six volumes to fall under the general rubric ``Mercy of a Rude Stream,'' 87-year-old Roth juxtaposes two stories: A young Ira Stigman grows up in Jewish Harlem during World War I (and on to 1920, when Ira turns 14); and Roth struggles to find his voice again. The theme that ultimately unites these potentially discordant elements is deracination--Ira's internal struggle to free himself from his ``Jewishness'' and Roth's realization that his own attempt to do just that resulted in his ``creative inanition.'' Because it reflects so well the struggles we all face in attempting to define who we are and where and how we fit into the bigger picture, the novel transcends both its vividly drawn, localized setting and the ethnicity of its characters. And it leaves one eagerly anticipating the next installment. Essential for academic collections and all but the smallest of public collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/93.-- David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Booknews
Analyzes the economic achievements of the People's Republic since the opening of markets in 1979, and the various measures the government has taken to spur international trade, investment, and technology transfer. Looks at such factors as the mobility of labor and capital, the import of trade and technology, and foreign investment. Also weighs the prospects for continued growth and considers China's changing role in the world economy and politics. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Donna Seaman
In this third volume of Roth's now-posthumous magnum opus, "Mercy of a Rude Stream", tortured hero Ira Stigman is nearly 90 and hard at work on an unwieldy autobiographical novel. Alternating between Ira's fiction and his current state of mind, Roth offers a provocative exploration of the vagaries of memory. Novelist Ira picks up the story in the 1920s just as young Ira has unwittingly become the third wheel in a precarious love affair between his best college friend, Larry, and their intrepid English professor, Edith. While Larry struggles to satisfy his lover and his literary ambitions, Ira--deeply ashamed of his furtive couplings described in earlier installments of the series with his sister and his young cousin--finds some relief in the bohemian ambience of Greenwich Village and in reading James Joyce. Roth does go on rather tiresomely about matters Joycean, but nothing can dilute the power of this unsparing analysis of one man's seemingly endless battle with himself.
Kirkus Reviews
The third volume in the late Roth's ongoing autobiographical cycle, Mercy of a Rude Stream, is very much of a piece with its predecessors—A Star Shines Over Mt. Morris Park (1994) and A Diving Rock on the Hudson (1995).

It continues the story of Roth's alter ego, Ira Stigman, now seen wrestling with his artistic and sexual demons as he struggles toward manhood in 1920s Manhattan and also, some 60 years later, as the elderly Ira labors to make sense of missed opportunities and flawed life choices, carrying on an extended, fragmented "conversation" with his computer ("Ecclesias"). This latest novel fictionalizes Roth's longtime affair with NYU teacher and poet Eda Lou Walton (here: Edith Welles), and it's drenched in the kind of self-conscious literary talk that most writers indulge in, then dispense with, in their early work (though, to be fair, Roth does communicate effectively the beady excitement felt by young intellectuals sharing a contraband copy of Joyce's Ulysses, as well as the hopeful Ira's discovery, through reading Joyce, "that it was possible to commute the dross of the mundane and the sordid into literary treasure"). There are too many lengthy disquisitions on favored writers and writing, and—conversely—a plodding recounting of Ira's peregrinations from one unfulfilling day job to another. Still, Roth writes ferocious, flinty dialogue (the scenes between Ira and his younger sister, and former lover, Minnie are charged with an unforgettable admixture of erotic heat and guilty hatred) and pulls off some remarkable technical effects in balancing the young Ira's dreams of literary accomplishment against his aged self's resigned understanding that "performance with words was the only option open to him, the only tramway out of himself."

It's odd, and sad, to realize that Roth, who died last October, may eventually be better remembered for this deeply flawed final work than for his one incontestable masterpiece: Call It Sleep (1934), the book of his youth.

From the Publisher
"Surely nothing like this series has been written before, nor will be again . . . Mercy of a Rude Stream will be looked upon as a landmark of the American literary century."--David Mehegan, The Boston Globe

"Extraordinary . . . clearly indispensable to the appreciation of Roth's unique life and work as a whole."—Frank Kermode, The New York Times Book Review

"A wondrous, disturbing, and ruthlessly honest chronicle of the complex and often wrenchingly twisted process of assimilation. The sheer dynamism generated by the writer's act of memory and confession is awe-inspiring."—Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

"One of the most remarkable literary creations of this century."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312143411
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/1996
  • Series: Mercy of a Rude Stream Series , #3
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.43 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Henry Roth died on October 13, 1995. His extraordinary literary legacy includes the classic Call It Sleep and six volumes of Mercy of a Rude Stream, all completed before his death. From Bondage is the third volume in this series, and follows A Diving Rock on the Hudson and A Star Shines over Mr. Morris Park, also published by Picador.

While still alive, Roth recieved two honorary doctorates, one from the University of New Mexico and one from the Hebrew Theological Institute in Cincinnati. Posthumously, he was honored by Hadassah Magazine with a special Harold U. Ribalow Prize for Distinguished Literary Achievement. He was also given a special honor by the Museum of the City of New York.

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Table of Contents

List of Tables
List of Figures
Preface
1 From Dragon to Superpower 1
2 Political Opening and Economic Reform 11
3 Regional Development: Special Economic Zones 23
4 Emerging Superpower 39
5 Growth: Past, Present and Future 57
6 Development of Internal Markets 73
7 Banking, Money, and Credit 107
8 China's Emerging Capital Market 123
9 Strategic Trade 141
10 Foreign Investment Strategy 163
11 China and the World 189
Notes 209
Index 223
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