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New Grub street by George Gissing

New Grub street (original 1891; edition 1891)

by George Gissing

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899169,817 (3.89)82
Title:New Grub street
Authors:George Gissing
Info:Leipzig, B. Tauchnitz, 1891.
Collections:ebook, Your library

Work details

New Grub Street by George Gissing (1891)

  1. 10
    A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf (DLSmithies)
    DLSmithies: Both addressing, in their different ways, the relationship between financial security and the writing of fiction.
  2. 00
    Riceyman Steps by Arnold Bennett (peterbrown)
    peterbrown: Although published 32 years after 'New Grub Street' Bennett also looks at life in North London (Clerkenwell) is concerned with the world of books, as well as class and poverty, particularly hunger.
  3. 00
    Love on the Dole by Walter Greenwood (stevanderman)
  4. 11
    The ragged trousered philanthropists by Robert Tressell (Booksloth)

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» See also 82 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
I struggled with this book a little at first, especially when I had a hard time liking some of the main characters. Most of the men in the book were quite unpleasant or even despicable in some way, whereas the women seemed more interesting to me, as they struggled to be independent of and respected by the men in their lives.

The story focuses on a number of people with some connection to writing or publishing in some form. Some of them are struggling to do good work, while others just want to gain some notoriety. I found some of the "industry" issues interesting, as a few might as well be happening today (the idea of writing shorter, easier to read pieces for a less attentive audience, for example).

I did have a hard time seeing this as happening in the 1880s though, mainly because the writing style seemed a little more modern to me, at least compared to other works from this time. I kept thinking they were in the 1900s at the very least, or perhaps a little later. I also kept making comparisons between some of the characters and those in The Forsyte Chronicles (Alfred Yule and Soames Forsyte, Jasper Milvain and Michael Mont, etc.).

The writing style, although it felt a little more modern, was a bit of a slog at points. The dialogue between certain characters felt extremely formal and overdone, and not enough like natural language. And some of the philosophical tangents were a bit dull and heavy-handed.

Overall, I thought it was an interesting, albeit not very uplifting or happy, book, but I didn't really enjoy it as much as I'd hoped to. But I think I'll still look into some of Gissing's other books, after this initial introduction. ( )
  digitalmaven | Jun 21, 2014 |
It took me forever to read this book as I was reading it on my phone, mostly a few Kindle pages here and there. So I kept forgetting what had happened previously. But I very much enjoyed the book and would have happily have read more about the characters, especially Amy and Marian. ( )
  queen_ypolita | Mar 17, 2014 |
Poverty has many faces in this novel, but they are always grim. While not, with a few exceptions, suffering from the deadly poverty of the utterly destitute, the characters nonetheless experience the grinding and soul-destroying lack of enough money to pay for the necessities of life as they see it. Gissing captures the indignities and choices of poverty: the man who keeps his overcoat on because he has jacket to wear under it; the man who lacks a penny to buy a loaf of bread locally and has to walk farther to buy a cheaper one, or the man who carefully keeps one decent set of clothes to wear to work and an infinitely shabbier one to wear all the rest of the time. Clothes may not make the man, but they reveal his finances and how far he has fallen since well-made clothes take longer to become shabby than cheap ones.

Primarily this novel is about the literary world of 1880s London and, by extenseion, the conflict between art and commerce. The would-be novelist Edward Reardon (loosely based on Gissing himself according to the introduction to my Penguin edition) aims only for art, while the up-and-comer Jasper Milvain seeks to exploit the new gossippy world of periodicals to become literarily and financially successful. Contrasting with hem is Alfred Yule, an older man who had been a classical scholar and literary success in an earlier era and who has trained his adult daughter Marian to do his research and write for him. Rounding out the characters are Marian's cousin Amy, who marries Reardon because she'd like to have a famous novelist for a husband; Milvain's two sisters who he sets to writing children's books as they have no income after their mother dies; Marian's mother who came from a less educated background than her husband and is shunned by him; and several other aspiring and poverty-stricken writers. It is the interactions of all these characters, and their rising and falling fortunes, that form this complex and depressing novel.

The characters in this novel often behave in ways that, as with Jude the Obscure (which also involves a young man forced to abandon his dreams because of poverty) that made me want to slap them and tell them to shape up. Why is Reardon so stubbornly self-destructive in so many ways. Why is Yule so cruel and unfeeling to his wife and daughter? Why is Milvain so cold and calculating? I am not complaining about Gissing's characterizations; rather my reactions show how real the characters became for me. When the possibility of both Marian and Amy receiving bequests upon the death of an uncle becomes a reality, the characters show what they are really made of and the money clarifies what had been partially hidden.

In addition to presenting the literary scene and its conflicts (plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose) and a vivid portrait of what poverty looks like, both for the utterly poor and for those who desire to remain "respectable" and "genteel" when their income cannot support it, Gissing provides a look at the role of women, the mechanics of publishing in the era, and the class distinctions among what we would now call the middle and lower classes. But overall what he creates in this novel is an overwhelming feeling of gloom, mirrored by the fog that so often envelops London.

As an additional note, the Penguin edition I read was enhanced by an insightful introduction that helped me understand the structure of the publishing world and Gissing's role in it.
10 vote rebeccanyc | Feb 5, 2014 |
This tale of literary paupers deals with poverty in an atypically clear-eyed way, but Gissing does have some weaknesses playing against this strength.

Pity those educated without means; forbidden from pursuing humble but lucrative occupations (and not content with them, anyway), yet clinging to respectability by the slimmest of margins. The caustic effects of poverty can destroy those with a weak constitution, those like Edward Reardon, the sensitive novelist who needs to take a leaf from the book of his ambitious friend Jasper.

New Grub Street catalogues the incestuous London literary scene, using Jasper and Edward as fulcrums for its story. The threat of poverty is omnipresent in the novel, but not in cariacuture, as Dickens was wont to slip into, or grand guignol like Zola. It's real, it's visibility, and its disturbingly close when one indifferent book or bad review can sideline a career.

Gissing's own experiences in this sub-culture give the book a veracity that can't be denied, and his sympathy for the characters - "good" and "bad" alike, gives the book a modulation that can be missing in Victorian novels.

Jasper, Edward, and everyone in their circle may be infuriating, but they are always understandable, and their desperation and fears are well-grounded.

The novel is propelled almost wholly through dialogue. Gissing has a gift for it, but it can give the book a skeletal feel at times, and if you don't respond to dialogue-heavy books, think twice.

As a corollary to this, the narrative does stutter a little at points, predominantly because anyone familiar with Victorian novels will see a few, heavily foreshadowed developments a long way off.

Thankfully, Gissing engenders a warm sympathy with his very human characters, and even if you know where they are headed, spending time with them is no chore. An interesting and worthy addition to the Victorian canon. ( )
1 vote patrickgarson | Sep 2, 2013 |
I found this late Victorian novel worth reading but confess i found the main character's whining non-attractive. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jun 2, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
George Gissingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arata, StephenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bergonzi, BernardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
As the Milvains sat down to breakfast the clock of Wattleborough parish church struck eight; it was two miles away, but the strokes were borne very distinctly on the west wind this autumn morning.
... at one-and-twenty he [John Yule] obtained a clerk's place in the office of a London newspaper. Three years after, his father died, and the small patrimony which fell to him he used in making himself practically acquainted with the details of paper manufacture, his aim being to establish himself in partnership with an acquaintance who had started a small paper-mill in Hertfordshire. His speculation succeeded, and as years went of he became a thriving manufacturer.
All these people about her [in the British Museum Reading Room], what aim
had they save to make new books out of those already existing, that yet
newer books might be made out of theirs? This huge library, growing into
unwieldiness, threatening to become a trackless desert of print -- how
intolerably it weighed upon the spirit! ... A few days ago her startled eye
had caught an advertisement in the newspaper, headed "Literary Machine"; it
had then been invented at last, some automaton to supply the place of such
poor creatures as herself, to turn out books and articles? Alas! the machine
was only one for holding volumes conveniently, that the work of literary
manufacture might be physically lightened. But surely before long some
Edison would make the true automaton; the problem must be comparatively such
a simple one. Only to throw in a given number of old books, and have then
reduced, blended, modernised into a single one for today's consumptions.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140430326, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:15 -0400)

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The Victorian novel presents a picture of a society in which literature has become a commodity and its production a mechanical business.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140430326, 0141199938

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