Etan Patz

September 22, 2010

It’s the height of chutzpah for me to envy the mother in Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep—she’s a bitterly poor immigrant in a walk-up in Brownsville, New York; I’ve got a babysitter and an apartment on Riverside Drive—but I felt a twinge of envy anyway when I reread the novel last year. After interrupting her sweeping to give her five-year-old son, David Schearl, a drink of water, David’s mother gently asks, “Aren’t you ever going down into the street? The morning grows old.” And down he goes, this mama’s boy, to the street and its little Jewish toughs.