Ending a 60-Year Silence

In his first novel since Call It Sleep, Henry Roth, 87, returns as a dry documentarian

It has probably never happened before: two novels by the same author, separated by 60 years and with no book of fiction in between. The appearance of Henry Roth's Mercy of a Rude Stream (St. Martin's; 290 pages; $23) not only breaks an epochal case of writer's block; it comes with a subtitle -- Volume I, A Star Shines over Mt. Morris Park -- and the astonishing dust-jacket information that this is only the first of six new novels that Roth, now 87, has completed. What he has apparently done, late in life, is tell the story of why he did...

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