Tuesday, June 24, 2014

New 19th Century Crush: George Gissing

Move over, Emile Zola.  Step aside, George Moore.  (Stay where I can still see you gentlemen, though!)

 There's a new fellow in the Bybee bookiverse.  George Gissing.  I've only read one complete novel so far -- The Odd Women -- and I'm about 15% into another -- The Nether World -- but I'm a fan.  Look at me, dashing like Emily Dickinson.  Yep, I'm smitten.  How did his work escape my notice for so long?  Or did it?  A long time ago, before most of your blogs were born, we had an Outmoded Authors Challenge.  Did I see his name there?  A memory stirs...

Anyway.  How do I love George Gissing?  I won't count all the ways, but suffice it to say that he hits my literary sweet spot.  He's like George Eliot and Emile Zola combined.  One foot in Victorian literature (but not the fainty, fussy kind -- the spirited, intellectual discourse kind that really takes its time about developing characters. Yes, I'm looking at you, Middlemarch!) and the other foot in Naturalism. His characters go off the rails on a crazy train from time to time, but then they go home and have a cup of tea and think about it.

 Furthermore, his prose is so intensely readable. [Rant about Henry James removed.]  I'm afraid to read him on the subway; I'm going to miss my stop one of these times.  Also, the way he creates characters!  I wanted to smack practically everyone in The Odd Women upside the head, but it's only because Gissing made me care so much about their lives.

Of course, this in no way plays into my hero-worship, but Gissing's books are free.  Thanks to Susan at Pages Turned, who mentioned him on Goodreads, I hunted them down and snapped up five -- The Odd Women, The Nether World, New Grub Street, Eve's Ransom, and The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft.

It's going to be a George Gissing summer.

P.S. He was cute, wasn't he?  I tried not to say it, but there you go.  


Melwyk said...

The Odd Women was such an interesting read! Did you notice the combination of names of the girls making it alone in the big city...Rhoda and Mary? Reminded me of something... ;)

Bybee said...

That's great! No, I didn't catch it. Guess I needed someone to toss her saucy little beret into the air.

SFP said...

Here's the Gissing I'm dying for you to read, Susan:


and the this one:


But of course it makes more logical sense for you to read New Grub Street after you finish The Nether World. Heck, I ought to be reading The Nether World. I have been afraid of starting that one.

Bybee said...

Got 'em! Thanks.

bibliophiliac said...

Yes! George Gissing is definitely an underappreciated writer. I've read Odd Women (loved) and New Grub Street. Your review makes me want to reread both. I think I discovered Odd Women through novelist Gail Godwin--she had a novel called Odd Woman that referenced the Gissing novel. Anyway, yes, yes, yes to Gissing.

Bybee said...

I'm going to read New Grub Street after The Nether World.

Vasilly said...

You make me want to read something by Gissing now!

Bybee said...

I'm done with The Nether World and it was really good, too. Depressing, but well done.

Anonymous said...

I think you may be the one person I know who's read as much George Gissing as I have. I referenced The Odd Women in my thesis back in the day. Gail Godwin's book is very good, too, by the way.

New Grub Street is very good, and a very interesting look into the life of a writer back in the day. He wrote many titles; I know I have at least two unread ones around the house somewhere.

I looked at his diary while do research for my thesis. Dreadfully discouraging. It's all entries like "Rained this morning. Wrote three pages" "Warmer weather today, wrote two and a half pages." Yet he kept it up for years and years.

Bybee said...

I'm so delighted to have found fellow Gissing-ites.