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By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  4,073 ratings  ·  539 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, 112 pages
Published 1992 by Flamingo (first published 1945)
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Aubrey It doesn't. Or rather, it does, but only to its complete and utter detriment.…moreIt doesn't. Or rather, it does, but only to its complete and utter detriment.(less)

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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
What hand of fate placed this book in my path after I'd finished a long series of Muriel Spark books I do not know. All I know is that I found myself taking this book home and loving it all evening, and all through the next day, and when I reached the end, I started loving it all over again from the beginning, this time reveling in the difference between it and Spark's books. Where Spark is all concision, Smart is all excess, where Spark is firm and trim, Smart is soft and yielding. I didn't kno ...more
Rose Gowen
Girl, he's not worth it. ...more
Dec 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, short-shorts
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 sha
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jun 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
Shelves: read2017
Elizabeth Smart was in a longterm relationship with the poet George Barker, even having four children with him. During that time he was married. So her life did not go the way she really wanted it to, and her longing for him permeates this book. Published in 1945, it is one of the earlier examples of "poetic prose," and the mention on the back cover that it is like Anais Nin and Djuna Barnes makes me want to read both of them; in my reading experience it is closest to Jeannette Winterson, one of ...more
Julie Ehlers
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept nearly did me in. It's the story of a woman in love with a married man, and what I've found is that it's just very, very difficult to convey the feeling of "forbidden love and overwhelming lust" without seeming like you're about to give yourself a stroke. I just wanted this woman to calm down already! It was too much, way too much, and I needed a break before I could pick it up again. Fortunately for me, By Grand Central Station is a novella of only 1 ...more
Jan 11, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kasey Jueds
Jan 10, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I so wish I could tell this book wasn't a disappointment, but unfortunately it was. I was so looking forward to reading it and I'm sorry to say that I found this work of poetic prose to be quite slow, especially in the first parts. Then it picked itself up, but it didn't really give me what I was hoping it would. There were only some beautifully written sentences here and there. ...more
Grace Hardy
Jan 29, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I passionately love the title of this book! I passionately hate everything else about this book. This isn't love Elizabeth, this is self serving nonsense! It's so introspective! She talks about how much she loves this man and yet you have no sense of why? She doesn't talk about him! She just talks about herself! It felt so long! I felt like I was endlessly reading the same paragraph! And some of the images were beautiful but some of the images were ludicrous- "my lover has Doves eyes" what in th ...more
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
K.D. Absolutely
Oct 10, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Dannii Elle
This contained moments of sweeping, all-encompassing truth and beauty interspersed with shallow angst and stunted, introspective thinking. I also failed to properly understand all of the mythological influences, which is the fault of the reader rather than of Smart's creation, yet it did impact my enjoyment. My overall understanding remained intact and I garnered much about both Smart's personal history, including her affair with married George Barker, and her insight to 1940's America. ...more
Aug 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1940s-release
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
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
Aug 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept is a prose poem that details the narrator's affair with a married man, and her emotions relating to her situation. And it is beautiful, that much I can say. Elizabeth Smart's prose poetry is full of lush imagery and beautiful turns of phrase, and if I wasn't so weird about writing in my books, I would have underlined most of this book.

This review will only be short, as there's not much else I can say about this, but at times I did find the prose a lit
Megan Baxter
My goodness, this slim little book makes me feel curmudgeonly. Look at the cover, the praise showered on it for being true and real and a masterpiece, and really, all I felt was irritated. I wasn't convinced this was a great love story, any more than Wuthering Heights is. And at least with Wuthering Heights, I'm not convinced we're supposed to think it is romantic.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to th
May 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Kasa Cotugno
Unlike any memoir or romance you've ever read, this has been called a "prose poem," but I would call it sheer poetry. Every line is cadenced, every paragraph holds a memorable metaphor and image. Written in the early 1940's while Smart was in the throes of passionate obsession, it is hot without being salacious. It doesn't have the overt sexuality of Anaïs Nin, but is nonetheless just as erotic. Smart fell in love with the poet George Barker in the most intimate fashion -- through the written wo ...more
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Smart's ravenous, violent manner of lusting and loving is quite unrecognizable to me, but that is part of its pleasure—and profundity. From Teresa of Avila to Emily Brontë to Jean Rhys to Sylvia Plath there has always been a deep cultural discomfort with excess, and especially so when it unapologetically flows from the pen of a woman. To the final word Smart refuses to explain herself and has even less interest in justifying her actions; throughout these pages she sits down and weeps more than o ...more
Hmmm.... so this starts with what i thought was someone planning a murder, an interesting but wrong assumption as it was just an allegory for sleeping with someones husband. On the other hand while the mistaken premise was good the writing was some of the worst stuff i’ve ever read.

I mean it was truly terrible writing with just an absurd amount of mixed metaphors piled on top of one another. I really didn’t think the novel/poem/whatever could recover from my disappointment at the discovery of th
Jan 08, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
Feb 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Holy shit.

This was a work of art.

Review on my book blog:
FRom BBC radio 4 - Drama:
The story of Elizabeth Smart's fated and intense love-affair with the poet George Barker. In love with his poetry, Elizabeth pursues George. She arranges to meet him. He arrives - but with a wife, Jessica. George and Elizabeth’s blistering affair begins.

Against family disapproval and Jessica’s guile, Elizabeth fights for George. The depth of their passion can only end in painful betrayal.

This adaptation of the story behind Elizabeth Smart’s classic work of poetic prose c
Inderjit Sanghera
The novel reads like a self-absorbed, solipsistic ramblings of a lovelorn adolescent interspersed with intermittent flashes of genius. The story is based on the relationship between the author, Elizabeth Smart, and her lover George Baker, which Smart chooses to drown in metaphors; some of these are poetic and beautiful, however some of these are drowned beneath a sea of self-absorption. The problem with Smart's approach is that whilst over a page or two the emotions portrayed in her are powerful ...more
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Description: The story of Elizabeth Smart's fated and intense love-affair with the poet George Barker. In love with his poetry, Elizabeth pursues George. She arranges to meet him. He arrives - but with a wife, Jessica. George and Elizabeth’s blistering affair begins. Against family disapproval and Jessica’s guile, Elizabeth fights for George. The depth of their passion can only end in painful betrayal.

This adaptation of the story behind Elizabeth Smart’s classic work of poetic prose
Keinwyn Shuttleworth
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favoritism, classics
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?
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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.

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