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Penguin Classics New Grub Street Paperback – Aug 30 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classic; Reprint edition (Aug. 30 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140430326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140430325
  • Product Dimensions: 3.1 x 12.5 x 20 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 440 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #456,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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AS the Milvains sat down to breakfast the clock of Wattle-borough parish church struck eight; it was two miles away, but the strokes were borne very distinctly on the west wind this autumn morning. Read the first page
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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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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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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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