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Penguin Classics New Grub Street [Paperback]

George Gissing , Bernard Bergonzi
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 30 2005 Penguin Classics
In "New Grub Street" George Gissing re-created a microcosm of London's literary society as he had experienced it. His novel is at once a major social document and a story that draws us irresistibly into the twilit world of Edwin Reardon, a struggling novelist, and his friends and acquaintances in Grub Street including Jasper Milvain, an ambitious journalist, and Alfred Yule, an embittered critic. Here Gissing brings to life the bitter battles (fought out in obscure garrets or in the Reading Room of the British Museum) between integrity and the dictates of the market place, the miseries of genteel poverty and the damage that failure and hardship do to human personality and relationships.

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"Few novels detail with such sparkling, bitter intelligence the emotional and financial toll that creating and publishing fiction can take on a writer's life. Yet, for all its bleakness, Gissing's satire remains a compelling read and a bracing book to teach, because it captures, like no other Victorian novel, the strains of innovation and enervation that alternately inspire and beleaguer its weary idealists and cunning pragmatists. New Grub Street has fresh relevance for us, as Stephen Arata's skilful introduction makes clear, because all its major themes—the pressures of commerce, financial precariousness, dwindling interest in literature and print journalism, and concern about maintaining a serious forum for art and ideas—are, if anything, even more urgent matters today." (Christopher Lane, author of Hatred and Civility: The Antisocial Life in Victorian England (2004)) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

Founded in 1906 by J.M. Dent, the Everyman Library has always tried to make the best books ever written available to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible price. Unique editorial features that help Everyman Paperback Classics stand out from the crowd include: a leading scholar or literary critic's introduction to the text, a biography of the author, a chronology of her or his life and times, a historical selection of criticism, and a concise plot summary. All books published since 1993 have also been completely restyled: all type has been reset, to offer a clarity and ease of reading unique among editions of the classics; a vibrant, full-color cover design now complements these great texts with beautiful contemporary works of art. But the best feature must be Everyman's uniquely low price. Each Everyman title offers these extensive materials at a price that competes with the most inexpensive editions on the market-but Everyman Paperbacks have durable binding, quality paper, and the highest editorial and scholarly standards. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Format:Paperback
I'm beginning to realize that George Gissing is an author who is relatively unknown by the general public but who is frequently studied/referenced by academics. The main reason why I think this is true (and this relates to the book at hand) is that Gissing himself had more of an academic temperament than a writing temperament. He was very adept at analyzing the world around him and commenting on it to a point of depressing realism, but he wasn't a storyteller. In fact, he struggled with creating enough storylines in order to support himself. Thus, while his books give impressive looks at Victorian life, they don't always leave a reader fully satisfied.
Why do I say this so confidently? Well, as Gissing was particularly self-aware and as he was particularly oppressed when writing "New Grub Street," in this novel he writes about what it's like to be a writer in London in the 1880's and 1890's. He essentially writes about his own life and those he find around him, all of whom are trying to make a living on writing.
Gissings seems to portray himself through the main character, Reardon. When the story opens, Reardon is struggling. His sophisticated wife is getting fed up with their impoverished lifestyle and with her husband's inability to write decent material. Reardon, a sensitive soul, is floundering under mounting pressure and stress. He is torn between his desire to write sophisticated, meaningful material and the public demand for "fluff." The more stressed laid on him, the less he is able to create and stick with any plausible fiction novel. He becomes more and more fererish and unable to work, and he is devastated as he loses his wife's love and respect.
Around this central character Reardon, Gissing builds a very full and weighty cast of characters.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Hateful Spirit of Literary Rancour May 27 2002
By mp
Format:Paperback
George Gissing's 1891 novel, "New Grub Street," is likely one of the most depressing books I've ever read. Certainly, in its descriptions of literary life, be it in publishing, or in my own realm of graduate scholarship, the situations, truths, and lives Gissing portrays are still all too relevant. "New Grub Street" itself points to the timelessness of Gissing's portrayals - as Grub Street was synonymous, even in the eighteenth century with the disrepute of hack writing, and the ignominy of having to make a living by authorship. One of Gissing's primary laments throughout the novel is that the life of the mind is of necessity one which is socially isolating and potentially devastating to any kind of relationships, familial or otherwise. "New Grub Street" gives us a world where friendship is never far from enmity, where love is never far from the most bitter kinds of hatred.
The anti-heroes of "New Grub Street" are presented to us as the novel begins - Jasper Milvain is a young, if somewhat impoverished, but highly ambitious man, eager to be a figure of influence in literary society at whatever cost. His friend, Edwin Reardon, on the other hand, was brought up on the classics, and toils away in obscurity, determined to gain fame and reputation through meaningful, psychological, and strictly literary fiction. Family matters beset the two - Jasper has two younger sisters to look out for, and Edwin has a beautiful and intelligent wife, who has become expectant of Edwin's potential fame.
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
"New Grub Street," published in three volumes in 1891, is George Gissing's grimly realistic exploration of literary life in 1880s London. While it is a remarkably vivid novel, it is also an accurate and detailed depiction of what it was like to be a struggling author in late nineteenth century England, "a society where," as Professor Bernard Bergonzi points out in his introduction, "literature has become a commodity, and where the writing of fiction does not differ radically from any other form of commercial or industrial production."
"New Grub Street" is the contrapuntal narrative of two literary figures, Edwin Reardon, a struggling novelist who aspires to write great literature without regard to its popular appeal, and Jasper Milvain, a self-centered, materialistic striver whose only concern is with achieving financial success and social position by publishing what the mass public wants to read. As Milvain relates early in the novel, succinctly adumbrating the theme that winds through the entirety of "New Grub Street":
"Understand the difference between a man like Reardon and a man like me. He is the old type of unpractical artist; I am the literary man of 1882. He won't make concessions, or rather, he can't make them; he can't supply the market. I-well, you may say that at present I do nothing; but that's a great mistake, I am learning my business. Literature nowadays is a trade. Putting aside men of genius, who may succeed by mere cosmic force, your successful man of letters is your skillful tradesman. He thinks first and foremost of the markets. . . . Reardon can't do that kind of thing, he's behind his age; he sells a manuscript as if he lives in Sam Johnson's Grub Street.
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