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New Grub Street (1891)

de George Gissing

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MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaConverses / Mencions
1,4612212,618 (3.93)1 / 131
Hailed as Gissing's finest novel, " "New Grub Street portrays the intrigues and hardships of the publishing world in late Victorian England. In a materialistic, class-conscious society that rewards commercial savvy over artistic achievement, authors and scholars struggle to earn a living without compromising their standards. "Even as the novel chills us with its still-recognizable portrayal of the crass and vulgar world of literary endeavor," writes Francine Prose in her Introduction, "its very existence provides eloquent, encouraging proof of the fact that a powerful, honest writer can transcend the constraints of commerce." This Modern Library Paperback Classic is set from the text of the 1891 first edition.… (més)
  1. 10
    A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas de Virginia Woolf (DLSmithies)
    DLSmithies: Both addressing, in their different ways, the relationship between financial security and the writing of fiction.
  2. 11
    The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists de Robert Tressell (Booksloth)
  3. 00
    Love on the Dole de Walter Greenwood (stevanderman)
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» Mira també 131 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 22 (següent | mostra-les totes)
I read this a few months ago but the characters remain vivid. This is a testament to Gissing's storytelling. He took time to build up the plot and the characters, allowing you to understand how they feel and think. As a result, it's very hard to choose sides. Jasper Milvain may be a villain to break off his engagement with Marian Yule but how do you fault a man who took care of his sisters and has drive and ambition? Amy Yule thinks her husband, Edwin Reardon, didn't try hard enough but we, as readers, know that he did, and how much it took him. A clash between ideals and money, and there's no right or wrong. ( )
  siok | Dec 3, 2022 |
This is a story that encompasses changes in the art of writing. Paper is becoming easier to make and print and books are able to be marketed to the "vulgar". The story contrasts the writer who is till trying to be literary and the one that writes to "make money". It also explores the plight of females and their efforts to be more independent and make a living. I enjoy the author's writing. This is the second book by him and it is the last of the books that Gissing has on the 1001 list. ( )
  Kristelh | Sep 16, 2021 |
What a gem of a book this is!
I came across this book on a Guardian list of 100 greatest novels (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/aug/17/the-100-best-novels-written-in-english-the-full-list) and had not previously read this one.
While I am generally a fan of Victorian era novels and have read and enjoyed Trollope, Hardy, Dickens and many others, I have recently found re-reading some of the books more challenging - they are often, long, the plots contrived, and the characters tend to be stereotypical. Well, Gissing has broken the mould - this book is alive with authorial insight, with flawed but believable characters and a strong theme - of the tough life faced by the talented but poor sector of genteel society.
There is still some Victorian nonsense: "In his gait there was a singular dignity; only a man of cultivated mind and graceful character could move and stand as he did." But this drivel is far out-weighed by the author's astute insight into the actions and behaviours of his characters.
In researching Gissing, I found that George Orwell rated him "perhaps the best novelist England has produced". ( )
  mbmackay | Jan 2, 2021 |



"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; when one kind of goods begins to go off slackly, he is ready with something new and appetizing. He knows perfectly all the possible sources of income."
New Grub Street - George Gissing

Unforgettable 500-page British classic set in 1880s London about the men and women working as part of the literary hub of New Grub Street. Indeed, we encounter some of the most articulate, refined, educated people in society; however, since these genteel men and women of letters lack the benefit of either family fortune or private wealth, they must continually use their pens to stave off grueling poverty and starvation as they attempt to stake their claim in the world of books and publishing.

Not an easy task even when their writing is going well, a fact author George Gissing (1857-1903) knew first-hand since circumstances hurled him into much the same plight; matter of fact, his earliest published novel, Workers in the Dawn, hit bookstores in 1880, when Gissing was a mere twenty-three years old, a semi-autobiographical three-volume novel recounting the unhappy life of a struggling, half-starved London artist married to a prostitute. Incidentally, when the author read the first book review of Workers he became so outraged he described literary critics as “unprincipled vagabonds.” Ooooo, George! If you were alive today, I hope you wouldn’t lump me among those nasty, filthy English cads.

Anyway, New Grub Street is also a “triple-decker,” that is, a novel in three volumes, which was standard fare at the time - almost predictably, the reason for this format was money: rather than purchasing novels, the reading public typically used circulating libraries and these circulating libraries could make a separate charge for each volume checked out. One of the main characters, Jasper Milvain, bemoans how such a demanding structure is “a triple-headed monster, sucking the blood of English novelists.” And Milvain isn’t even a novelist; rather, as we come to know in much more detail, his literary focus is entirely practical and utilitarian – acknowledging his turn of mind and skill level, he writers columns for literary periodicals.

As counterpoise to all these literary folk, there’s old John Yule, a wealthy retired merchant who would very much like to see literary production abolished since by his reckoning the writing and especially the reading of books makes men weak, flabby creatures with ruined eyes and dyspeptic stomachs, men who should spend their leisure hours not reading but out in open-air exercise. But, alas, John is fighting a losing battle since in 1880s England reading has caught on like wildfire – books, journals, magazines and newspapers are all the rage.

One of the novel’s overarching themes is the hierarchy of social class. A prime example is John’s brother Alfred Yule, a literary man and journalist, who disgraced his family by taking a humble servant woman for his wife. Then when Mrs. Yule gave birth to daughter Marian, Alfred forbade his wife to speak to her daughter since he was horrified at the prospect that Marian might be infected with his wife’s faulty grammar and hackneyed diction. No, no, no – as soon as humanly possible, Marian was separated from her mother and sent off to a day school. Then, some years later, after hearing her mother’s grammatical errors, young Marian innocently asked her father, “Why doesn’t mother speak as properly as we do?”

Along somewhat the same lines, in conversation with his hyper class-conscious wife Amy, young novelist Edwin Reardon stresses the biggest difference in all the world: that the man with money thinks: “How should I use my life?” and the man without money thinks: “How shall I keep myself alive?” Reardon goes on to ruminate that if he should fail to make a great name for himself as a novelist, how such a fate would be a grievous disappointment to Amy. However, when we first encounter the novelist around age thirty, the promise of fame is very much alive as he did write and have published two marginally successful novels prior to his marriage. But shortly thereafter, as we read further on, a crisis is at hand: sensitive, high-principled Edwin Reardon encounters the ever-looming nightmare for a poor novelist attempting to make money in order to support a family by the publication of his work: writer’s block. In many respects, the drama of Edwin Reardon’s personal and artistic integrity is at the heart of the heart of Gissing’s compelling tale.

Another writer with integrity is Reardon’s friend Harold Biffen, a habitually half-starved scarecrow of a man who has a vision for a realistic novel, a novel depicting life as it truly is, specifically, the grimy nitty-gritty of an everyday drudge, in his case, a grocer living hardscrabble in the poorest section of the city. This literary skeleton-man despises romantic novels with their heroes performing predictable heroic acts, so it is something of an irony that Biffen performs the most singularly heroic act in the entire novel. Listening to Harold Biffen’s philosophy on realism and the realistic novel, I hear echoes of this very three volume George Gissing, a novel realistic in the extreme, reminding me much more of the Paris destitute depicted in Émile Zola’s The Gin Palace than any Charles Dickens misty-eyed yarn with a happy ending.

At one point, a demoralized, forlorn Edwin Reardon shares with Harold Biffen the highpoints of his life, a time prior to his marriage when he was traveling. As he relates: “The best moments of life are those when we contemplate beauty in the purely artistic spirit – objectively. I have had such moments in Greece and Italy; times when I was a free spirit, utterly remote from the temptations and harassings of sexual emotion. What we call love is mere turmoil. Who wouldn’t release himself from it forever, if the possibility offered?” The novelist’s statement accords with Edmund Burke’s philosophy of the sublime - the magnificent experience of beauty and overwhelming majesty out in nature, so distinct from the toil of even a creative expression such as novel writing, an endeavor forever bound to the pressures of schedule and the anxiety of possible rejection. Also, Edwin’s words speak to English society as a whole in the nineteenth century, where the vast majority of men, women and even children were condemned to a life of unrelenting toil, forever bound to the wheel of Ixian, slaving from dawn to dusk as if they were nothing more than beasts of burden.

Yet again another aspect of nineteenth century British society takes center stage with the unfolding events in the life of Marion Yule. How free is Marion and how eligible is she as a lover and future wife? The answers to these questions are closely tied to how much money, if any, she will receive in her inheritance from her rich uncle, John Yule, along with to what degree she will be obliged to care for her ailing father. With Marion, Gissing provides us with a clear perspective on how a woman’s life and possible tragic fate is so dependent on outside forces, especially the letter of the law.

Toward the end of the novel, we listen in on a discussion of the future face of publishing with Jasper Milvain and others as the forward-looking Mr. Whelpdale proposes a change in the name of a paper: “In the first place I should slightly alter the name; only slightly, but that little alteration would in itself have an enormous effect. Instead of Chat, I should call it Chit-Chat. . . . Chat doesn’t attract any one, but Chit-Chat would sell like hot cakes, as they say in America.” With this brief exchange George Gissing conveys how well-worn, conventional notions of culture are rapidly transforming, how success in literature is becoming Americanized along with everything else, how what people read will be driven by catchphrases and slick marketing. Utilitarian, optimistic, pragmatic, materialist Jasper Milvain is all for it. The more I reflect on Gissing’s novel, the more I discern distinctly how the entire current day mass-media is the new literary New Grub Street.
( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
FINAL REVIEW



"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; when one kind of goods begins to go off slackly, he is ready with something new and appetizing. He knows perfectly all the possible sources of income."
New Grub Street - George Gissing

Unforgettable 500-page British classic set in 1880s London about the men and women working as part of the literary hub of New Grub Street. Indeed, we encounter some of the most articulate, refined, educated people in society; however, since these genteel men and women of letters lack the benefit of either family fortune or private wealth, they must continually use their pens to stave off grueling poverty and starvation as they attempt to stake their claim in the world of books and publishing. Not an easy task even when their writing is going well, a fact author George Gissing (1857-1903) knew first-hand since circumstances hurled him into much the same plight; matter of fact, his earliest published novel, Workers in the Dawn, hit bookstores in 1880, when Gissing was a mere twenty-three years old, a semi-autobiographical three-volume novel recounting the unhappy life of a struggling, half-starved London artist married to a prostitute. Incidentally, when the author read the first book review of Workers he became so outraged he described literary critics as “unprincipled vagabonds.” Ooooo, George! If you were alive today, I hope you wouldn’t lump me among those nasty, filthy English cads.

Anyway, New Grub Street is also a “triple-decker,” that is, a novel in three volumes, which was standard fare at the time - almost predictably, the reason for this format was money: rather than purchasing novels, the reading public typically used circulating libraries and these circulating libraries could make a separate charge for each volume checked out. One of the main characters, Jasper Milvain, bemoans how such a demanding structure is “a triple-headed monster, sucking the blood of English novelists.” And Milvain isn’t even a novelist; rather, as we come to know in much more detail, his literary focus is entirely practical and utilitarian – acknowledging his turn of mind and skill level, he writers columns for literary periodicals.

As counterpoise to all these literary folk, there’s old John Yule, a wealthy retired merchant who would very much like to see literary production abolished since by his reckoning the writing and especially the reading of books makes men weak, flabby creatures with ruined eyes and dyspeptic stomachs, men who should spend their leisure hours not reading but out in open-air exercise. But, alas, John is fighting a losing battle since in 1880s England reading has caught on like wildfire – books, journals, magazines and newspapers are all the rage.

One of the novel’s overarching themes is the hierarchy of social class. A prime example is John’s brother Alfred Yule, a literary man and journalist, who disgraced his family by taking a humble servant woman for his wife. Then when Mrs. Yule gave birth to daughter Marian, Alfred forbade his wife to speak to her daughter since he was horrified at the prospect that Marian might be infected with his wife’s faulty grammar and hackneyed diction. No, no, no – as soon as humanly possible, Marian was separated from her mother and sent off to a day school. Then, some years later, after hearing her mother’s grammatical errors, young Marian innocently asked her father, “Why doesn’t mother speak as properly as we do?”

Along somewhat the same lines, in conversation with his hyper class-conscious wife Amy, young novelist Edwin Reardon stresses the biggest difference in all the world: that the man with money thinks: “How should I use my life?” and the man without money thinks: “How shall I keep myself alive?” Reardon goes on to ruminate that if he should fail to make a great name for himself as a novelist, how such a fate would be a grievous disappointment to Amy. However, when we first encounter the novelist around age thirty, the promise of fame is very much alive as he did write and have published two marginally successful novels prior to his marriage. But shortly thereafter, as we read further on, a crisis is at hand: sensitive, high-principled Edwin Reardon encounters the ever-looming nightmare for a poor novelist attempting to make money in order to support a family by the publication of his work: writer’s block. In many respects, the drama of Edwin Reardon’s personal and artistic integrity is at the heart of the heart of Gissing’s compelling tale.

Another writer with integrity is Reardon’s friend Harold Biffen, a habitually half-starved scarecrow of a man who has a vision for a realistic novel, a novel depicting life as it truly is, specifically, the grimy nitty-gritty of an everyday drudge, in his case, a grocer living hardscrabble in the poorest section of the city. This literary skeleton-man despises romantic novels with their heroes performing predictable heroic acts, so it is something of an irony that Biffen performs the most singularly heroic act in the entire novel. Listening to Harold Biffen’s philosophy on realism and the realistic novel, I hear echoes of this very three volume George Gissing, a novel realistic in the extreme, reminding me much more of the Paris destitute depicted in Émile Zola’s The Gin Palace than any Charles Dickens misty-eyed yarn with a happy ending.

At one point, a demoralized, forlorn Edwin Reardon shares with Harold Biffen the highpoints of his life, a time prior to his marriage when he was traveling. As he relates: “The best moments of life are those when we contemplate beauty in the purely artistic spirit – objectively. I have had such moments in Greece and Italy; times when I was a free spirit, utterly remote from the temptations and harassings of sexual emotion. What we call love is mere turmoil. Who wouldn’t release himself from it forever, if the possibility offered?” The novelist’s statement accords with Edmund Burke’s philosophy of the sublime - the magnificent experience of beauty and overwhelming majesty out in nature, so distinct from the toil of even a creative expression such as novel writing, an endeavor forever bound to the pressures of schedule and the anxiety of possible rejection. Also, Edwin’s words speak to English society as a whole in the nineteenth century, where the vast majority of men, women and even children were condemned to a life of unrelenting toil, forever bound to the wheel of Ixian, slaving from dawn to dusk as if they were nothing more than beasts of burden.

Yet again another aspect of nineteenth century British society takes center stage with the unfolding events in the life of Marion Yule. How free is Marion and how eligible is she as a lover and future wife? The answers to these questions are closely tied to how much money, if any, she will receive in her inheritance from her rich uncle, John Yule, along with to what degree she will be obliged to care for her ailing father. With Marion, Gissing provides us with a clear perspective on how a woman’s life and possible tragic fate is so dependent on outside forces, especially the letter of the law.

Toward the end of the novel, we listen in on a discussion of the future face of publishing with Jasper Milvain and others as the forward-looking Mr. Whelpdale proposes a change in the name of a paper: “In the first place I should slightly alter the name; only slightly, but that little alteration would in itself have an enormous effect. Instead of Chat, I should call it Chit-Chat. . . . Chat doesn’t attract any one, but Chit-Chat would sell like hot cakes, as they say in America.” With this brief exchange George Gissing conveys how well-worn, conventional notions of culture are rapidly transforming, how success in literature is becoming Americanized along with everything else, how what people read will be driven by catchphrases and slick marketing. Utilitarian, optimistic, pragmatic, materialist Jasper Milvain is all for it. The more I reflect on Gissing’s novel, the more I discern distinctly how the entire current day mass-media is the new literary New Grub Street.
( )
1 vota GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
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» Afegeix-hi altres autors (36 possibles)

Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
George Gissingautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Arata, StephenEditorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Bergonzi, BernardIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Whistler, James McNeillAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Wincott, AndrewNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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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.
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... at one-and-twenty 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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Wikipedia en anglès (1)

Hailed as Gissing's finest novel, " "New Grub Street portrays the intrigues and hardships of the publishing world in late Victorian England. In a materialistic, class-conscious society that rewards commercial savvy over artistic achievement, authors and scholars struggle to earn a living without compromising their standards. "Even as the novel chills us with its still-recognizable portrayal of the crass and vulgar world of literary endeavor," writes Francine Prose in her Introduction, "its very existence provides eloquent, encouraging proof of the fact that a powerful, honest writer can transcend the constraints of commerce." This Modern Library Paperback Classic is set from the text of the 1891 first edition.

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