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New Grub Street

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  5,434 ratings  ·  270 reviews
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, ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published June 24th 1976 by Penguin Classics (first published 1891)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  5,434 ratings  ·  270 reviews


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Glenn Russell
Oct 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing


"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."

The above quote is from this unforgettable 500-page British classic set in 1880s London about the men and women working as part of the literary
...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
“That is one of the bitter curses of poverty; it leaves no right to be generous.”

George Gissing was a young man on his way. He had impressive scores at the Oxford Local Examinations, and all was going well until he fell in lust with a young orphaned prostitute named Marianne Helen Harrison or Nell. He gave her money to keep her from plying her trade and when he ran out of money he stole from his fellow students. He was caught, expelled, and convicted serving a month of hard labor at Belle Vue
...more
Paul Bryant
Nov 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: hardly anyone
Shelves: novels
Sometimes you see those guys on the street with one long dotted line tattoed round their neck and an inscription CUT HERE. This is one of their favourite novels.
MJ Nicholls
Gissing’s seminal novel is perched peculiarly on the precipice of modernism and the hard crank of technogeddon is hewn into every toilsome syllable. Jasper and Edward are the foolish scribes living by their pens (imagine such an absurd notion!), kicking against the hot fuzz of hackdom and bitchery in their blazing borough. Edward, the inspiration for cuddly failed writer Ed Reardon in the heretically off-point Radio 4 comedy, is the “artist” (the quality of his novels is never particularly ...more
Chrissie
Two stars means the book is OK, not bad.

So I have now read this long, long book and I am having a hard time coming up with interesting things to tell you about it. THAT in itself is quite revealing!

Set in London in the 1880s, it is about diverse characters of literary and journalist circles—authors and their critics. It is about writing for the love of the art versus writing for what sells and what is profitable. I know where I stand in relation to this question, so I found little food for
...more
Katie Lumsden
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars
Gissing is fast becoming on of my favourite Victorian writers. His writing is so strong, his description of people and his observations so well thought out and poignant. This is a story that deals will struggling writers within 1880s London, and is superbly and heart-breakingly written. Brilliant.
Nigeyb
Sep 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
George Orwell said that George Gissing was "perhaps the best novelist England has produced". Orwell identified New Grub Street, along with The Odd Women and Demos: A Story of English Socialism as Gissing's "real masterpieces". Orwell, as an impoverished writer, would doubtless have identified with New Grub Street which discusses the connection between literature and commerce in late-Victorian London.

New Grub Street was not a physical place, but an allusion to the original, 18th century Grub
...more
F.R.
Sep 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is my second reading of ‘New Grub Street’ and I think I’m even more impressed this time around. Gissing follows three writers in the late Victorian age: struggling artist Edwin Reardon, embittered critic Alfred Yule and literary opportunist Jasper Milvain. Each of them is trying to make their way as a man of letters in London and through them the book deals with literature in a commercial age.

If you’re a writer yourself you’ll see replicated some of the pain and frustration is takes to
...more
William Sandles
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As far as tragic novels go, Gissing doesn't have the narrative power of a Joseph Conrad, or even a Thomas Hardy at his best; nor does he have the singular gift of psychological subtlety of a Henry James; or the ambition of Mary Ann Evans aka (bka?) George Eliot; not even close. These writers can be downright operatic in their works. Gissing's style is a wonderful and curious hybrid of knife fight and Victorian drawing room comedy. No, there is no violence to speak of; not in the physical sense. ...more
Pam
Oct 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: readers who appreciate historical detail
I bought this book a couple years ago, when I was on a 19th-century naturalism binge. As near as I can tell, the book is about writing for money, as opposed to writing as art. One character is totally opposed to reading and education in general. He thinks it's unnatural, and that we should all be out exercising and working, building our bodies rather than our minds.

The book is on some classic lists, and I even saw it on a list of best horror novels. I'm thinking someone expanded the definition
...more
Issicratea
Aug 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1800-1900, reviewed
I find myself wavering about this novel. Half of me thinks it’s only medium good—standard, intelligent, late-Victorian/Edwardian fiction, without Stevenson’s quicksilver eye and prose, or even Arnold Bennett’s dogged lyricism. The other half thinks it’s actually rather powerful in the relentlessness of its vision, and almost brutal, in an interesting way —in particular, with what it does with its not-quite heroine Marian Yule.

New Grub Street opens on a note of literal gallows humor, when we see
...more
Pamela
Dec 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I suspected I was going to love this book because I so loved another Gissing novel, The Odd Women (see my review). I did. New Grub Street was published in 1891 but couldn't feel more contemporary in its wry, sly, cynical take on writers and the writing life. As in The Odd Women, Gissing is preoccupied with the ways in which material want deforms lives and ideals. There are no villains here, but the talented and high-minded tend to fail, while the savvy and commercial-minded tend to succeed. ...more
robin friedman
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Revisiting New Grub Street

I have been a reader of the late Victorian novelist George Gissing (1857 -- 1903) for most of my life and have read or reread much of his writing and reviewed it online. Gissing remains too little known and I focused in my reading and online reviewing on some of his less familiar works which tend to go in and out of print. Unlike most of his books, Gissing's novel "New Grub Street" (1891) has achieved recognition and readership. The book has remained in print, is
...more
Sera
Feb 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
New Grub Street is my second Gissing book, and he's now become solidified as my favorite Victorian author hand's down.

The book involves three primary groups of characters who are engaged in some form of literary or journalistic occupation: the Reardons, the Yules and the Milvians. There are some important characters ancillary to these families, but the primary story involves the three families and how their occupational pursuits impact their personal lives. Gissing provides interesting
...more
Christine
May 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It's a great book, which is strange because so many of the characters are unlikeable. Then again, maybe that is why it is a great book because all the characters are human.

Gissing paints a very good picture of the times, and several characters, in particular Jasper, feel as if they could just work off of the page. There are only a total of two flat characters and that is all. There is something compelling about the tone and style as well. I wish my teachers in college had assigned this book.
...more
Ryan
Aug 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
Sometimes a reputation is lethal: a book feels so thoroughly strip-mined by critics that reading it feels almost irrelevant .

So with this book. Gissing's dialogue rarely sounds like living speech, or slyly advances a plot: it's there to info-dump on the reader for page after page, without mercy. The characters have attitudes rather than personalities; the stock of events is thin and repetitious.

What sets it apart are the insights, all of which George Orwell was quick to net and bottle. Gissing
...more
J.M. Hushour
May 22, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's a supreme irony that a book about a group of turn-of-the-century authors and their struggle to find success amidst the burgeoning marketplace of awful-mass-market fiction is so witheringly awful. It's almost as if Gissing, in the ultimate act of meta-whatever, decided to gain popular appeal by writing schlock.
I was initially excited to read this. Orwell loved this novel (Gissing's dreadful execution of his female characters aside), it figures consistently in top 100 English novel lists (I
...more
Morgan Scorpion
Dec 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is unusual insofar as it has a hero with few redeeming qualities. I'm supposed to despise Milvain and respect Reardon, but in fact, I feel the other way round. I cheer on Milvain, even as I regret his callousness with regard to romance, and I positively enjoy watching Reardon's life going down the toilet. The unhappy ending that I am supposed to deplore, I actually applaud. You can call it schadenfreude if you wish, but I do feel that most of the people in this book get what they ...more
Jane
Dec 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Although set in London in the 1880s, this novel, on the practicalities and realities of making one's living by literature -- writing, editing, publishing it -- examines conflicts still relevant in working writers' lives today, or at least it seems to me.

This is fabulous social critique: on marriage as based as much on financial considerations as emotional ones; on friendship, real or professional; on writing as art or as industry; and on social status as a given or strategically self-made.

The
...more
Laura
Jun 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Bettie, Carey
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
Harold Pinter narrates the tale of a group of Victorian writers' struggles with integrity and poverty. Stars Jonathan Firth
.

Pam
The BEST book I have ever read. George Gissing deserves a much wider audience. If you want to read about real life in Victorian London, forget Dickens. Read Gissing. Right now.
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Predictably, I didn’t love this book like I did The Odd Women, though once I got into it, I did enjoy it. And usually I avoid books about writers and writing, finding them too navel-gazing; despite that, and the fact that it is a 19th century novel (published 1891), I read half the book in a single day.

This book follows several characters involved in various ways in the changing London literary scene. Edwin Reardon is a sensitive artist determined to write meaningful novels, to the chagrin of
...more
Dawn
I enjoyed this story and its take on the publishing industry in the late nineteenth century. It follows the lives of several authors and shows how their lives improve, or not, as they follow a writing career.

I found it interesting to see how much the attitude and general workings of the industry are still very similar to what they were then. Though I do have a perception that it is much more difficult to get published now than it was then. The technology might have changed but the essence still
...more
Alex Siskin
I had a wonderful time reading this book. Somehow it was completely engaging, like a thriller almost. Part of it was my own mood, as I was upbeat and reading and focusing well, and I had just finished a challenging slog through May Sinclair’s sometimes leaden but highly rewarding The Creators, which carefully examines and updates Gissing’s story and topic. I found New Grub Street positioned in just the right staging area on my shelves, and knew just enough about it to guess correctly that it is ...more
Jenny
Nov 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
After a few disastrous attempts, I’ve decided literary realism/ naturalism is not for me.
My husband and I have a running joke. By nature I am an optimist, an idealist. He declares himself a realist and I tease him that he’s a pessimist.
In reacting against romanticism, naturalism swings too far in the opposite direction, as most reactionaries do. They declare themselves realists as they draw an unrelieved picture of the multiple ways that humans can be petty and unjust. In my view they are
...more
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
Read for Victober 2017

Before reading this book I was lucky enough to see a few Booktubers speak of it. Then I googled the title and found that the superb George Orwell called George Gissing "perhaps the best novelist England has produced"! Wow! With an endorsement such as that this book was quickly moved to the top of my TBR, and it was well worth the jump. This book was deftly written with so much true insight into the publishing world of London in the 1880s, and into the problems of poverty in
...more
Mark
Aug 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A thoroughly realized character study of two writers living in London in the 1880s. The first, Jasper Milvain, a confident networker who will do--and write--nearly anything to achieve fame and fortune. The second, Edwin Reardon, a glum individual whose literary promise was hinted at with his first novel, but the strain of trying to produce another masterpiece at any cost is slowly driving him, his (increasingly exasperated) wife, and his infant son to abject poverty. The dichotomy is obvious: ...more
Bettie


Librivox recordong in conjunction with Project Gutenberg

The story deals with the literary world that Gissing himself had experienced. Its title refers to the London street, Grub Street, which in the 18th century became synomynous with hack literature; as an institution, Grub Street itself no longer existed in Gissing’s time. Its two central characters are a sharply contrasted pair of writers:
Edwin Reardon, a novelist of some talent but limited commercial prospects, and a shy, cerebral man; and
...more
Ian
Jan 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1001-books
Really enjoyed this. Had been sitting on my bookshelf for a while as the blurb made it sound heavy going. Far from it - very involving and some great characters. It is all about literary folk trying to stave off poverty in London in the late Victorian period and the obstacles to producing fine literary novels if you don't know where your next meal is coming from, or how hard it is to earn a living writing for periodicals if the editor dislikes you. Great contrast between naturalist authors and ...more
Dana
Feb 01, 2016 rated it liked it
I was thinking of giving just two stars to this book. I gave three, but mostly because of the portrait of the 19th century England's society it provided. On the whole, this was not a book to which I looked forward. I had to force myself to finish it. However, I appreciated the glimpses into a life in which women were almost totally dependent on men. Thus, the women were vulnerable and men under unbearable pressure to provide for them. Ambitious women were left to feel successful through their ...more
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The Readers Revie...: New Grub Street Week 2- Chapters 5 to 8 19 17 Nov 03, 2019 02:45PM  
The Readers Revie...: New Grub Street - Reading Schedule 13 29 Nov 01, 2019 08:57AM  
Reading 1001: New Grub Street 1 5 Nov 23, 2017 10:40PM  
The Patrick Hamil...: "New Grub Street" by George Gissing 8 14 Sep 07, 2016 01:52AM  
Victorians!: New Grub Street - Part 5 - Chapters XXX-XXXVII 20 29 Feb 20, 2015 12:56PM  

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114 followers
George Robert Gissing was an English novelist who published twenty-three novels between 1880 and 1903. From his early naturalistic works, he developed into one of the most accomplished realists of the late-Victorian era.
“Well, I wasn't going to abuse him. I was only going to ask: Is there any quality which distinguishes his work from that of twenty struggling writers one could name? Of course not. He's a clever, prolific man; so are they. But he began with money and friends; he came from Oxford into the thick of advertised people; his name was mentioned in print six times a week before he had written a dozen articles. This kind of thing will become the rule. Men won't succeed in literature that they may get into society, but will get into society that they may succeed in literature.” 6 likes
“But just understand the difference between a man like Reardon and a man like me. He is the old type of unpractical artist; I am the literary man of 1882. He won't make concessions, or rather, he can't make them; he can't supply the market. I--well, you may say that at present, I do nothing; but that's a great mistake, I am learning my business. Literature nowadays is a trade. Putting aside men of genius, who may succeed by mere cosmic force, your successful man of letters is your skilful 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 appetising. He knows perfectly all the possible sources of income. Whatever he has to sell, he'll get payment for it from all sorts of various quarters; none of your unpractical selling for a lump sum to a middleman who will make six distinct profits.” 3 likes
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