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By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept…

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept (original 1945; edition 1992)

by Elizabeth Smart

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5851216,858 (3.63)35
Title:By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept
Authors:Elizabeth Smart
Info:Flamingo (1992), Paperback
Collections:Your library, To read
Tags:Novella, Fiction, TBR

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By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart (1945)

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Loved this when I read it in my 20s. Depressing but so well-written. ( )
  Winspear | Dec 27, 2013 |
To me this short novel is a bit of a conundrum, and I can see both why it was half-abandoned by the public and then turned into a cult classic.

It's written in highly metaphorical, poetic language, and captures the semi-autobiographical story of this woman who falls madly in love with a married man and ships both him and his wife over to America to live with her. She has a passionate affair with him, gets pregnant by him, and ultimately, it all unravels in violent, tragic ways. The language is a mixture of annoying melodramatic somewhat immature phrases that belong in the romantic era, rather than a modernist novel, such as "true love" and "fate", but also some very creative, fascinating images that make you think deeply about the ideas she's communicating and force you to read the novella very slowly.

It's also easy to forgive the talk of "true love" precisely because of the very modern way that the plot turns in very dark directions, with prostitution, the sordid and emotionally fraught nature of this effectively polyamorous relationship, and the very realistic way it disintegrates. The last quarter of the novel, for me, makes it, and elevates it up considerably - but I never completely forgage the author her over-exuberant earlier romantic cliches. ( )
1 vote RachDan | Apr 7, 2013 |
Such a beautifully written book! Every page is imbued with the passion Smart felt for her lover, George Barker. Though, since Barker was married and a Catholic, their love would forever be carried out in secret or if not secret then without the approbation of society.
At one point, as detailed in the book, Smart and Barker were actually arrested in Arizona for sharing a bed when they were not married. Smart's mother was mortified by the affair and when this book was published she tried to have it banned in Ottawa. When that didn't work she went out and purchased all the copies she could find and burned them.

It would be interesting to know what Barker's wife felt during all this. Initially it seems that Smart was reluctant to consummate the affair because of his marriage. They were all living in a small community in California when the affair started so she must have know what was going on. And from some of the passages about her it seems that she had at least one miscarriage.
In the night she moans with the voice of the stream below my window, searching for the child whose touch she once felt and can never forget: the child who obeyed the laws of life better than she....Her shoulders have always the attitude of grieving, and her thin breasts are pitiful like Virgin Shrines that have been robbed.
So how difficult it must have been for her to see her husband's mistress give him a child.

I must confess I don't think I care for George Barker. Information available on the internet details that he had affairs with other women and at least 7 other children in addition to the 4 Smart eventually had with him. If he had remained true to her I would have felt that the affair was understandable as a grand passion but since he impregnated other women he obviously didn't feel as bound to her as she was to him. 'Twas ever thus. ( )
1 vote gypsysmom | Nov 23, 2011 |
When I wrote the entry for this book in my reading catalogue, I added one word beside it: “amazing.” It is simply amazing. I found it by chance while browsing at a bookstore a while back. I had remembered hearing the title several times before, but it had never really registered with me. But for some reason that day it did, so I read the back cover and then flipped to the first page. After reading the first couple of sentences, I knew I had to stop and wait until I got home to continue. I read the book in one sitting, in a blur, in what I remember felt like one sharp intake of breath.

The basic plot is the love affair between the author and the poet George Barker. He was married when they met and had countless affairs with women over the years — despite this, Smart ended up having four children by him. So, it’s based in reality while still being a novel. However, the style of the writing has been described as prose poetry, and is full of emotion and imagery. I remember thinking as I read it that I would need to read it again at least once, if not twice, but at that moment I was just savouring the feelings caused by the words, as opposed to the words themselves.

I think it’s one of those books I will return to over the years. It’s definitely one that sticks in your head after you’ve finished it, which is nice because you can re-live the emotion all the more. In fact, I was so impressed with this book after I read it that I searched for, and was fortunate to find, a copy of the first edition published in 1945. The print run was only 2000 copies, and Smart’s family was not impressed with her subject of choice so they tried to have the book banned from entry into Canada (it was published in London). For its time, I suppose it was scandalous to have a book that is so explicitly about an illicit affair, but I’m certainly glad we have the chance to read it today.

http://lebookshelf.tumblr.com/post/4829037667/19-by-grand-central-station-i-sat-... ( )
  the_bookshelf | Jun 13, 2011 |
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to Maximiliane von Upani Southwell
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I am standing on a corner in Monterey, waiting for the bus to come in, and all the muscles of my will are holding my terror to face the moment I most desire. Apprehension and the summer afternoon keep drying my lips, prepared at ten-minute intervals all through the five-hour wait.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0586090398, Paperback)

Elizabeth Smart's passionate fictional account of her intense love-affair with the poet George Barker, described by Angela Carter as 'Like MADAME BOVARY blasted by lightening ...A masterpiece'. One day, while browsing in a London bookshop, Elizabeth Smart chanced upon a slim volume of poetry by George Barker - and fell passionately in love with him through the printed word. Eventually they communicated directly and, as a result of Barker's impecunious circumstances, Elizabeth Smart flew both him and his wife from Japan, where he was teaching, to join her in the United States. Thus began one of the most extraordinary, intense and ultimately tragic love affairs of our time. They never married but Elizabeth bore George Barker four children and their relationship provided the impassioned inspiration for one of the most moving and immediate chronicles of a love affair ever written - By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. Originally published in 1945, this remarkable book is now widely identified as a classic work of poetic prose which, more than six decades later, has retained all of its searing poignancy, beauty and power of impact.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:54:39 -0400)

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