By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept
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By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  1,028 ratings  ·  119 reviews
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept is a novel of prose poetry written by the Canadian author Elizabeth Smart and published in 1945. It is widely considered to be a classic of the genre.

In her preface to the 1966 reissue of the book, Brigid Brophy describes it as one of the half dozen masterpieces of poetic prose in the world. It details the author's passionate af...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 3rd 1992 by Vintage Books (first published 1945)
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karen
i disagree with greg.

when i was thirteen, i had a journal. and i would lie on my tummy and kick my feet in the air and record my tiny thoughts.

when i was fifteen, i had a journal. and i would smoke a joint and lie on my tummy and record my huge earthshattering thoughts.

when i was nineteen, i had a journal. and - well, let's save something for the biopic, shall we?

i don't have a journal anymore. and you know why?



because i write huge purple monsters of sentences and only end up making myself small...more
Greg
I had a joke I was going to start off with, but I can't remember exactly what it was. I promised Karen I'd put it in here though. Karen bought this book for me in Portland at Powell's, I don't know why this book was on my to-get list, but the title would have definitely been enough for me to want the book. I think it might have been a favorite of Morrissey. I'd added a few books a while back because Morrissey liked them. Anyway, Karen bought this for me, and Elizabeth was interested in the book...more
Núria
Cuando empiezas a estudiar literatura en la universidad siempre hay un profe que te cuenta que las fronteras entre géneros literarios son muy difusas, que a veces no se puede distinguir tan claramente a qué género pertenece una obra. Luego también te encuentras otro profe (o puede que sea el mismo) que te cuenta que las mujeres tienen una forma de escribir diferente a la de los hombres. Y no te presentan ninguna prueba, pero tú eres joven e idealista y no te cuesta ningún esfuerzo hacer el acto...more
Bieiris
Permitidme ser cruel. Por un momento veo a George Barker leyendo esta novelita en la cama con una de las madres de sus quince hijos descojonándose de risa. Miento, es una imagen que no puedo quitarme de la cabeza.

No me creo la pasión arrebatadora de esta mujer. Es demasiado descarnada, unos sentimientos tan exacerbados y tan íntimos, si no pasan un filtro de distancia y frialdad que los despoje de tanto melodrama, corren el riesgo de parecer triviales y vulgares al lector. Lo confieso, no me cae...more
Kasey Jueds
Very divided about this book, hence the 3 stars. On the one hand, gorgeous gorgeous prose: there were many sentences I read over and over. And the subject matter--obsessive love--is conveyed with the sort of honesty that's humbling ("honesty" actually feels pretty pallid when applied to Elizabeth Smart, but I can't think of a word that means "beyond honesty").

On the other hand (and I realize this sort of criticism is like being confronted with a particular type of animal--say a horse--and whini...more
Adeena
Smart's book recounts her decade-long affair with the poet George Barker. It's breathtaking, glorious and idiotic and I'm totally mesmerized by it.

Angela Carter described the novel as "like Madame Bovary blasted by lightning," but later wrote to her friend that her motivation for starting the feminist press Virago was that so "no daughter of mine should ever be in the position to be able to write By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, exquisite prose thought it might contain. By Grand Ce...more
Keinwyn Shuttleworth
I spent a summer afternoon with this novel at the botanic gardens and there I, myself sat down and wept. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept is a poetic explosion of love in its rawest form, of emotion that is so course it stings to the touch. Each sentence is a kind of tremulous agitation, a desperate cry of complete vulnerability, an intimate caress. Could there be anything as beautiful as the love this woman bore this man?
David
Opens at Big Sur, which is where I was this summer! We visited Henry Miller's cabin but didn't find a copy of his Reflections On The Death Of Mishima. In fact, the staff had never heard of it. Big Sur is just like Cornwall, but light is less good.
Libby
This is really powerful & I love her writing.
But I'm not heartbroken enough right now to enjoy it.
I need to be massively depressed to read Sylvia Plath. I need to be drinking black coffee to read Ernest Hemingway. And it would seem I need to be at 'the depths of despair' {thankyouAnneShirley} to read By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept.
Elizabeth
ooh I can't believe I haven't added this book.

that said, I would give this book a rating if I actually knew what the heck was going on as I read it lol. I'm not quite sure prose poetry works for me.

I read it because apparently Morrissey is super into this book, which Idk why that motivated me seeing as I have never heard a Morrissey song nor have I ever listened to The Smiths lmao. (I was 14 and had read The Perks of Being a Wallflower when I heard about this book, ah the follies of youth...)

th...more
Jani
Compared to Smart's prose poetry many of the books I had read before only amount to poetic prose. They have only reached particularly beautiful reaches of language instead of walking the line between the big literary genres. After reading By Grand Central... I've come to think perhaps this has been for the best.

The novel is a short but dense text. It is full of allusions, references and quotes taken from many central texts of the Western literary canon, such as The Bible and Ovid's Metamorphosis...more
zespri
This edition had both Grand Central Station and the Assumption of the Rogues and Rascals - was interesting to read them in sequence.

I kept thinking as I read Grand Central Station that I would love to hear it read aloud, it would be even more poignant.
Elizabeth Moffat
Elizabeth Smart's prose poetry is beautiful and she describes her passionate affair with the poet George Barker masterfully. For some reason, it didn't hit the right note with me, although I appreciated her use of language.
Elisabeth Winkler
Finally, about three decades after wanting to read this novel (on the strength of the title), I have. Sadly, I did not understood a lot of it. It was over-literary and obscure.

The first section was good: the couple who visit the author, the pain/horror of the lover's wife presence while the two lovers develop mutual attraction, the eventual coming together of the two lovers in a wild North American forest. The literary descriptions were vivid and served the story.

After this, increasingly lavish...more
S.B.
Dec 18, 2011 S.B. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to S.B. by: the title
I usually don't like ~poetic~ novels. I prefer a more concrete, say-it-in-as-few-words-as-possible writing style; that's why the first 10pgs of this book made me grumpy and I wouldn't have even finished it if I hadn't bought it. I'm very thankful I continued on, somehow I managed to get thru 100pgs of biblical-sized grief and then another 100pgs of the extreme bitterness that characterizes the second novella which is included in this book. Both of the novellas are kind of stunning in themselves,...more
Malcolm
This is an utterly spectacular novel – more a prose poem than something we would recognise a common form narrative- or character-driven novel, but it is powerfully narrative driven. We learn none of the names of the major characters: a man, his wife, his lover (the narrator). But we do learn of the lover's powerful, gut wrenching grief when he leaves her to return to is wife. Her love is intense, is immense, is absolute, so even the bad times are made, not good, much more than bearable. The clas...more
Emily
I do not really know if I should tag this in my shelves as "poetry". Because it was poetry, because it did not feel like a novel at all. But, at the same time, it wasn't a poetry book. I find it hard to follow the plot and savor the poetry at the same time (I read with a different mood when I'm reading poetry than when I'm reading a novel. Here I didn't know what mood I should use). Also, there were a lot of references I missed, even though there were some notes at the end of the page in the Spa...more
Leanne

The edition of this title I have contains two prose-poems, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept and The Assumption of the Rogues and Rascals. Unfortunately, the latter was a huge disappointment after the title prose-poem, and accounts for the three star rating. The title poem alone would have gotten four.


There isn't really much story to either poem. There is a basic frame, but nothing more. In By Grand Central Station, the "plot" is a young woman's love affair, and how it affects her wor

...more
Asam Ahmad
This is an extraordinarily beautiful book: 108 pages of the most heightened emotional intensity, an intensity that doesn't really let up even after you've read the last page. I read the first page at bookcity and had to literally hold on to the bookshelf because I had never encountered such beautifully, disturbingly intense lyricism. There are moments where it veers into cliched territory and some of the sentences seem extremely overwrought, but these are fairly minor inconsistencies in what is...more
Aloysius
If you enjoy prose poetry, you'll dig "By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept". Really one of the best-loved cult titles in an admittedly amorphous literary sub-genre - a few others being "Lolita", Djuna Barnes' "Nightwood", and the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde. (Oh, and for a fantastic example of what prose poetry can look like in the non-fictional register, check out Edward Schafer's "The Golden Peaches of Samarkand" - trippy is the only way to describe it ...) Most of all though, Smart ch...more
M.J.
Nov 08, 2013 M.J. rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to M.J. by: Jennifer Lyon
Shelves: poetry
I am conflicted about Elizabeth Smart's "By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept". Moments of beauty punctuate a constant state of emotional and mental fragility. I find I am unable to pin down exactly how I feel about it as a whole. My opinion, much like the work itself, feels more like a collection of thoughts and emotions hanging together around a common theme.

By Grand Central Station is a work of prose poetry describing the early stages of the turbulent affair between the author and (m...more
علی
Though the novel seems complicated at the beginning, but on the contrary this is a simple autobiographic novel about LOVE, writen by a young girl with a wonderful female language! A girl fall in love with a homosexual man who is already married with another woman. These three spend the summer(1945?) at Californian coast while Europa (where they come from!?) is burning in war flames. The man and the girl leave together, start a journey, spending time in dirty guest-houses, sunny coasts, low-spiri...more
Yvonne
This is so much not my kind of book that it would be unfair for me to give it a star rating based on my own reading taste.
I read this novel because the writing group I belong to decided to read and discuss it.
I found it the literary equivalent of the needy, inebriated friend who corners you over a shared bottle of wine and spends the entire time baring her soul about her love for some adulterous, abusive cad who's left her pregnant and alone. By all means go ahead and pour it all out, just don't...more
Bob
Ah - it was Brigid Brophy's intro to this that included the Jean Genet comparison that prompted me to read Funeral Rites. In any event, despite a certain commonality of metaphor, it's hard to imagine the two are frequently thought of in the same breath.
Smart's "prose poem" describes the blossoming of her life-long love affair with (indigent, philandering) poet George Barker. There are scarcely events per se (though getting jailed in 1945 Arizona for immorality i.e., an unmarried couple travelin...more
Matt
As kind of a paunchy, heterosexual, middle aged man whose greatest passion may be for the study of taxation, I should not have adored this book as much as I did. But I think I'll read it twice in a row.

(interesting and well publicized note: many of Morrissey's Smiths lyrics were lifted from this work, nearly verbatim. note #2: this was not written by the abducted girl, who is a different person)
Maia
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept is a novel in prose poetry, considered one of the classics of that small genre. In floods of passionate and powerful words, Elizabeth Smart glides through the story of her affair with another poet, a married man. Their romance begins in Northern California under the cool pines of the coast. They attempt to travel together to Arizona and are arrested, leading to one of the most intense scenes where Smart weaves quotes from the Song of Songs through the...more
Anna
Actually, this is poetic prose, but since I don't have a category for it "poetry" will have to do.

It is quite possibly the most heartbreaking love story I have ever read - a completely destructive affair with a married man, all its highs:
"O the water of love that floods everything over, so that there is nothing the eye sees that is not covered in. There is no angle the world can assume which the love in my eye cannot make into a symbol of love."
and the lows:
Perhaps I am his hope. But she is his...more
Jessica
Given the title, I thought this book would be right up my alley: sad, perhaps bleak, taking place in New York. However, it was indeed sad but in the way it was written - a diary-like, flowery, full of inprecise descriptions, unknown owners of pronouns, poetic prose... I think some readers will highly enjoy this (I already recommended it to a friend), but I could not. To understand the book you have to understand Smart's life as The Other Woman... but even then I was hard pressed to understand mu...more
Matt
Jiminy figs! It's a poem as a novel. It's unique. Some people find it overcharged and fanciful. Yeah it is. So was Wagner. But when Wagner goes De-ne-ne-ner-neeerrrrr everyone leaps up! Not one for cultural buffoons. It's written on a knife edge, and just about any other writer I've ever read attempting this would fuck it up royally. Except perhaps Shakespeare. Completely audacious. Some of the reviews below take it apart a sentence at a time and mickey it. I don't think that's fair. You can't t...more
Daniel
The story is the oldest, simplest one there is, but the fiery, emotional but lucid, brilliant voice that tells it is a revelation. By Grand Central Station... is a short, sharp shock to the senses, a dense, lyrical, allusive, but, most of all, devastating cry of joy and anguish.
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Elizabeth Smart (December 27, 1913 – March 4, 1986) was a Canadian poet and novelist. Her book, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, detailed her romance with the poet George Barker. She is the subject of the 1991 biography, By Heart: Elizabeth Smart a Life, by Rosemary Sullivan, and a film, Elizabeth Smart: On the Side of the Angels, produced by Maya Gallus.

More about Elizabeth Smart...
The Assumption of Rogues and Rascals Necessary Secrets: The Journals of Elizabeth Smart My Story Juvenilia Autobiographies

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“I have learned to smoke because I need something to hold onto.” 20 likes
“Under the redwood tree my grave was laid, and I beguiled my true love to lie down. The stream of our kiss put a waterway around the world, where love like a refugee sailed in the last ship. My hair made a shroud, and kept the coyotes at bay while we wrote our cyphers with anatomy. The winds boomed triumph, our spines seemed overburdened, and our bones groaned like old trees, but a smile like a cobweb was fastened across the mouth of the cave of fate.

Fear will be a terrible fox at my vitals under my tunic of behaviour.
Oh, canary, sing out in the thunderstorm, prove your yellow pride. Give me a reason for courage or a way to be brave. But nothing tangible comes to rescue my besieged sanity, and I cannot decipher the code of the eucalyptus thumping on my roof.
I am unnerved by the opponents of God, and God is out of earshot. I must spin good ghosts out of my hope to oppose the hordes at my window. If those who look in see me condescend to barricade the door, they will know too much and crowd in to overcome me.
The parchment philosopher has no traffic with the night, and no conception of the price of love. With smoky circles of thought he tries to combat the fog, and with anagrams to defeat anatomy. I posture in vain with his weapons, even though I am balmed with his nicotine herbs.
Moon, moon, rise in the sky to be a reminder of comfort and the hour when I was brave.”
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