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By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,932 Ratings  ·  241 Reviews
First published in 1945, Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept is an enigmatic and nearly indescribable book, a small classic of poetic prose whose author has been compared with Anaïs Nin and Djuna Barnes. In lushly evocative language, Smart recounts her love affair with the poet George Barker with an operatic grandeur that takes in the tragedy of ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 3rd 1992 by Vintage (first published 1945)
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Mar 07, 2012 karen rated it it was ok
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
Nov 09, 2010 Greg rated it really liked it
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
Sep 15, 2014 Cheryl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-shorts, poetry
I am shot with wounds which have eyes that see a world of sorrow, always to be, panoramic and unhealable, and mouths that hang unspeakable in the sky of blood.
See a woman who is part of an unending love triangle, feel the music of her "love language" through this prose poem, follow the staccato of her thoughts, know that this is about love and its melancholy. Unrequited love? No. Unappreciated love, I would say. Love that is not true. But who I am to judge the confounding love the author share
Rose Gowen
Girl, he's not worth it.
K.D. Absolutely
Oct 31, 2015 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Karen
Shelves: poetic-prose
Poetry in prose. Very emotional telling of a forbidden relationship. It is said to be a classic in this genre.

Written by Elizabeth Smart (1913-1986), this tells her passionate love affair with a married man, poet George Baker (1913-1991). Their relationship lasted for 18 years and resulted to four children. The book barely describes Baker but it is able to impart the variety of emotions that a woman-in-love with a married man feels. There is the intensity of love no matter if it is forbidden bu
This book is written in poetic prose and is condidered by some critics to be a masterprice in the genre. I can safely say I have never read anything quite like it before. The book trailer uses the word indescribable and I certainly agree. This book won't be for everyone; you can read the varying reviews and see that. I don't think you can just pick the book up and understand what it's about without some background information. I read as much as I could about the relationship of Elizabeth Smart a ...more
Being 'prose poetry', a concept I admit I am uncertain about - where is the line drawn between lyrical prose and prose poetry? - Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, acknowledged everywhere as 'a classic of the genre', is dense and florid. Too often I felt like I was looking at a Magic Eye picture, struggling to make out the actual story and meaning in the confusion of language. This was all the more frustrating because having read a bit about the background of this st ...more
Kasey Jueds
Jan 10, 2014 Kasey Jueds rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
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
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
Aug 21, 2016 Bee. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Holy shit.

This was a work of art.

Review on my book blog:
Dec 20, 2015 Antonomasia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, decade-1940s, 2015
Feb 2015.
Prose poems about how bloody exhausting it is to be in love.
For some of the people / some of the times, I mean (being old enough to know those who have made it into something sustainable).

This has survived as a cult book largely thanks to Morrissey. Grand Central Station has over a hundred times more readers on here than the memoir of the affair by Smart's lover George Barker. You've won, Liz... Though - as they remained, tempestuously and non-exclusively, involved until her demise - s
Aug 12, 2012 Adeena rated it really liked it
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
Jul 11, 2015 cris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: en-la-biblio, poetry
No es un libro que recomendaría a cualquier lector. Es prosa poética, no hay trama sino un sentimiento desbordante. Está escrito de forma sublime y de gran intensidad, y esto puede arrastrar al lector como no lo ha hecho nadie, pero también apabullar de forma que no se conecte o incluso parecer demasiado. Yo creo que es una obra bellísima (sobre todo las partes tres y cuatro, ciertos párrafos sobre la Segunda Guerra Mundial muy reconocibles ya en la cultura popular y la última parte que le da no ...more
A tale about love, and giving yourself completely to it, no matter what are the consequences. Beautifully written, the words flow through and the full emotions are felt by the reader.

Jan 08, 2012 Libby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
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.
Mar 25, 2011 Bieiris rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 17, 2016 Hugh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-classics
Way back in the early '90s, I came across Ashley Hutchings' album "By Gloucester Docks I sat down and wept", an intensely personal folk rock concept album telling the story of a doomed relationship. This book is referenced not just by the title, but because a few lines of it are quoted at a key point in the story. Hutchings' sleeve note says "those who have not read it are recommended to as soon as possible". It took me more than 20 years, but when I saw the book, I was curious enough to buy it. ...more
Jan 17, 2016 Olivia rated it did not like it
This self-indulgent twaddle should have stayed in Smart's journal where it belongs. Convoluted sentences, with layer upon layer of metaphor, make the book a struggle to read, and surely even in a 'prose poem' it should be possible to work out what (if anything) is going on? It made a little more sense when I had read up on Smart's life and her relationship with Barker, but I reckon a book should stand up on its own without expecting the reader to do research. In Part Ten – nearly at the end! Hur ...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?
Nov 04, 2013 David rated it it was ok
Shelves: big-red-circle
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.
Jane Louis-Wood
This was, for me, an intensely frustrating book. The Canadian author decided as a teenager she would 'fall in love with a poet'. She grew up (somewhat) and fell in love with literary also-ran George Barker, whose main claim to fame is that TS Eliot once thought he was good. They had a protracted and dreary relationship and four children, despite his marriage and complete lack of commitment to her or anyone else.

It's a prose poem that sings in places, but mostly whines; a consequence of the poet
Alex Aguilera
Jul 01, 2015 Alex Aguilera rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites

"Jovencitas enamoradas, sed putas, duele menos"

Aún me encuentro abrumado por la potencia de este poema en prosa. Aún estoy en pleno abobamiento.
La potencia de esta obra se halla en su sinceridad inigualable. Aún puedes ver, en cada página, las lágrimas que cayeron sobre el manuscrito mientras Smart las redactaba.
Esta obra es como un manual, un dictado, una ayudita perdida en la cueva de una isla desierta que un náufrago escribió para que quienes lo descubrieran no erraran igual que él. Es la
Asam Ahmad
Apr 21, 2010 Asam Ahmad rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 27, 2016 G.G. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The late, great Angela Carter offered the last word on this: upon meeting Elizabeth Smart at a party, Carter apparently "wrote in fury to [her friend] Lorna Sage saying that she hoped no daughter of hers would ever be in a position to write a book like Smart's:
This anecdote (and much else) is from Kate Webb's review, "Monsters marinated in being," TLS July 8 2016, pp. 13-14.
Three stars because it is complex and I know I should read it again. A short but dense novel about an affair. Much has been made of its poetic language, and this has great appeal for anyone who enjoys such things in a novel, but maybe it is not for everyone. It is, however, great to read something out of the ordinary.
Elizabeth Moffat
Nov 10, 2012 Elizabeth Moffat rated it it was ok
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.
Jul 13, 2015 Juliana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4,5 stars.
James Watt
Mar 03, 2015 James Watt rated it liked it
I felt conflicted about this poetry prose novella. Someone whose taste is usually spot on suggested this one to me a couple of years ago. I went out and bought it instantly but couldn't get into it, oddly, at a time when I was reading a lot of poetry. After confining it to the shelf for a while I found opportunity to revisit it on a rainy train journey to London. The poetic feel and beautiful prose was remarkable, I found myself pouring through the lines, visiting some over and over again becaus ...more
May 30, 2016 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school, scanned, can-lit
Strikingly beautiful and strange all in one short novel. This was my first read for my Post War Canadian Fiction class and I'm confused and intrigued by it all at once. It's dense for a hundred page novel, and at times it is really confusing as to what is actually happening. I think I grasped what was going on the more I heard of the history of the book, being written during an obsessive great love of the authors life, which was just an affair. Not to mention this is all taking place in the mids ...more
Jul 04, 2016 Tomo20 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novellas
I read in another review of this book that this was a three star or five star book for many people, and I agree. Most of the way through it I thought I would be in the three star camp. Recognising the skill and passion of the book but held back by the flights of drama, the operatic tone, the supreme self absorption of the writer/main character.

Then it clicked for me in a way it hadn't before. This euphoric, hallucinatory, frustrating, precise but opaque book is a howl of emotion that has the in
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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...

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“I have learned to smoke because I need something to hold onto.” 30 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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