Synopses & Reviews
Hailed as Gissings 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.
"The most impressive of Gissing's books...England has produced very few better novelists." George Orwell
"Very few novels paint so unsparing yet subtle a picture of the selfishness of most human motivation; and though this intricate, perfectly plotted story is unrelievedly grim...it's also unbelievably ceaselessly absorbing, ironic, and often extremely (if truly darkly) funny. It's the greatest novel in English about failure." Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic Monthly
(read the entire Atlantic Monthly review
Hailed as Gissing's finest novel, New Grub Street portrays the intrigues and hardships of the publishing world in late Victorian England. Set from the 1891 first edition, this Modern Library Paperback Classic includes newly commissioned endnotes and a reading group guide.
About the Author
Francine Proses most recent book is The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women and the Artists They Inspired. A contributing editor at Harpers, she is the author of ten books of fiction, including Blue Angel, a 2000 National Book Award finalist.
Reading Group Guide
1. 1. The subjects of sex, class, and money permeate Gissings novels. To what extent does New Grub Street
revolve around these themes? How important a role does Gissing suggest they play in our lives, or more specifically, the lives of the nineteenth-century literary class?
2. 2. Do you think Edwin Reardon is a sympathetic figure? If not, why? Consider his relationship with Amy, with Jasper, and with the literary world in general. How does he fulfill the role of the anti-hero in New Grub Street? What are some of his weaknesses?
3. 3. Many literary critics have remarked upon Gissings detailed and careful representation of women in his novels. Consider the roles of Marian, Amy, Jaspers sisters, Dora and Maud, and even Mrs. Yule. Are there any similarities in their characters? Further, are their roles defined at all by the men in their lives? If so, how?
4. 4. How is marriage represented in New Grub Street?
5. 5. Consider Gissings attitude toward literature and the creation and consumption of it. What is he essentially saying about literature as an art form? Further, what do you think the novel suggests about writers and the process of writing?
6. 6. Revisit the opening of the novel, when Jasper remarks at breakfast, “Theres a man being hanged in London at this moment,” and the following paragraphs. What do Jaspers remarks tell us about him? Why do you suppose Gissing chose to begin his novel this way?
7. 7. Consider Gissings description of London and environs. What role does the setting play in this novel? Further, how does Gissings use of the landscape coincide with his naturalist tendencies as a writer?
8. 8. How does the idea of the “three-volume novel” (or the “three-decker”) function in the novel (which is also written in this form)? How is this format used as a motif, and how does it embody the machinations of the writing process? Examine the scenes of Reardon at work on his novel. What ideas do these scenes convey?