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By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept.

This is one of the most extraordinary novels ever written. It's a torch song of a book, an operatic lament written in an intense, overwrought style that is by turns biblical, poetic, and impertinent. The story is simple: a young woman falls obsessively in love with a married man, enjoys some blissful moments of illicit sex with him, and is left to bear their children. But the plot is hard to follow, for the text is hardly what you'd call "composed"; instead, its lipstick is smeared, its hair a mess, its mascara running as the nameless narrator rhapsodizes over love's joys and desolations. The novel lacks decorum, is shameless in its excesses, and resembles those madwoman scenes in Elizabethan drama where disorderly prose breaks through the orderly boundaries of verse. The story doesn't flow, it hemorrhages. (All this is praise, not censure.) The effect is overwhelming, emotionally draining, the greatest love story ever written if you define love as naked yearning so powerful and lawless that it resembles demonic possession.

First published in 1945, this new edition adds The Assumption of the Rogues & Rascals (1978), a kind of sequel, along with an astute introduction by Brigid Brophy. She finds parallels between Smart's poetic style and Jean Genet's; one might also be reminded of Djuna Barnes, Anais Nin, Marguerite Young, even Edward Dahlberg. But no one compares to this daring maenad of a writer. Elizabeth Smart died in 1986.
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Author:Moore, Steven
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1993
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