The Original Think Magazine (Published since 1996)

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart

I am standing at a bookshelf in Kinokuniya, not at all believing my sight, and all the words of joy I have are frozen as I pick up the book I most desire. Amazed at the power I have over bookstores, I pick up my copy of Smart's poetic prose with shaking hands.

'By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept' by Elizabeth SmartI suspect it is purely out of a desire to stifle my queries that they have stocked this book. After all, for how long can you take some stupid guy coming in every week to ask if Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept is available?

If you find the title familiar, you probably have read Paulo Coelho's By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, or you are a faithful follower of the Bible and are extremely familiar with Psalms 137, that begins "By the rivers of Babylon..." Unfortunately, I'm not too sure the contents of Smart's book would be exactly to your liking, for it more or less documents her long affair with famous poet George Barker.

Morality aside, Smart's book is one of the most elegant pieces of poetic prose of our time. What exactly is poetic prose? It is a technique in writing where prose is written and read with a certain rhythm of poetry. The emphasis of poetic prose is not on rhyme; it is on the descriptive power of verse made into prose. Essentially, it is poetry made easy.

Published at the end of the Second World War, By Grand Central Station captures perfectly the facets of a woman who has to be a mother, housewife and lover, the life of the modern woman, and granting the book the feel of the period with its elegance.

The little details of life that we go through are made into the most beautiful sentences in this book. "With precious meticulousness nature showers me with the skill of Penelope for small precise tasks I bungled before: button making..."

Smart's work weaves through the ages, pulling Christian rituals and pagan visuals into today's mural, making for an intoxicating read. It is indeed due to her use of literary tradition, producing imagery by going back to these mythological and legendary figures such as Dido, Queen of Carthage and Penelope, wife to Odysseus, that Smart makes the woman of her time from, and induces the reader to visualise what woman is in her different capacities.

The imagery of Smart is truly incomparable.

In Part Three, she writes, "O the water of love that floods everything over, so that there is nothing the eye sees that is not covered in." is a perfect example prose made into verse, and what makes this book stand out from thousands of other authors. Smart's love, joy and pain all expressed in this book so artfully is meant to induce the exact same feelings running through her, and allow you to feel how the pleasure of love can become utter agony, and the worst pain become joy.

It unites the holiness of love found in the bible with mortal love and the complications it brings of Tristan and Isolde. Smart's relationship as an affair is only hinted at, from occasional suggestions of the other woman to the lament that she could not go to Arizona to meet Barker for the purposes of having an affair.

By Grand Central Station is a book that you should read, and read aloud, to truly appreciate the lyrical quality of Smart. It truly demonstrates why existence may not be mechanical, especially if there is a love so deep it carries on despite whatever odds may stand in its way.

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