Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Writings About New York (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Writings About New York (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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by Stephen Crane
     
 

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Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Writings about New York, by Stephen Crane, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are

Overview



Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Writings about New York, by Stephen Crane, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

 

Written before but published after The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets offers a stark image of the underbelly of urban American life at the end of the nineteenth century. Maggie Johnson, a lovely innocent too slight to carry the weight of poverty, dreams of escaping New York’s Bowery and the casual cruelty of her alcoholic family. After her younger brother dies, she runs off with Pete, a bartender with pretensions to wealth and culture. But Pete himself is easily seduced by the seemingly sophisticated Nellie, and Maggie finds herself abandoned in the unforgiving metropolis.

 

Publishers feared that Crane’s portrait of brutal fathers swilling away their lives in cheap bars, drunken mothers raging at terrified children, and ruined young women walking the streets, would be more than their readers could bear. But Crane’s impressionistic style and thematic intensity won the day, and Maggie—the author’s favorite among his works—helped to shape the writers that followed him and begin the era of literary naturalism.

 

This edition also includes the short novel George’s Mother, plus “A Night at the Millionaire’s Club,” “Opium’s Varied Dreams,” “When a Man Falls, a Crowd Gathers,” and several other of Crane’s masterful short stories.

 

Robert Tine is the author of six novels, including State of Grace and Black Market. He has written for a variety of periodicals and magazines—from the New York Times to Newsweek.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781411432604
Publisher:
Barnes & Noble
Publication date:
06/01/2009
Series:
Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
582,889
File size:
716 KB

Read an Excerpt

From Robert Tine’s Introduction to Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Writings about New York

            Crane was determined to live in the city and to make his living with his pen. Living a bohemian, hand-to-mouth existence, he took to vanishing into the vast netherworld of the city, living among the whores, the drunks, the drug addicts, and the “b’hoys,” the Irish gangster swells of the Bowery. Emerging from this underworld, Crane would have enough material for a freelance newspaper piece as well as other material that would become Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. Occasional newspaper work, a small but providential inheritance, and regular handouts from one of his brothers allowed Crane to cobble together a modest living—but it was Maggie on which he had pinned his hopes.

            By 1892 Crane had finished writing Maggie. He approached the editor of Century Magazine, hoping his story would be serialized in the pages of that august publication. Almost immediately his hopes were dashed. The editor found the manuscript “cruel” and far too straightforward about the awful details of slum life. At the time there was no shortage of literature about the life of the underclass, but it was always couched in the safe terms of moral disapproval, sugar-coating the misery of the wretched, and suggesting that somehow the poor were responsible for their misery. Crane’s matter-of-fact presentation of life in the gutter was, the editor of the Century felt, too harsh for its middle- and upper-class readership.

            Crane then began that dispiriting trek, so well known to first-time novelists, traveling from publisher to publisher only to have his manuscript rejected again and again. Many of the editors who read Maggie had the same opinion: While there was much to admire in the book, the squalor of the story, the appalling degradation of virtually all the characters, and the coarseness of the language were bound to outrage the “Mrs. Grundys” of the world (the fictional Mrs. Grundy, introduced in Thomas Morton’s play 1798 Speed the Plow, exemplifies the negative influence of conventional wisdom) and bring nothing but opprobrium down on the author and by extension his publisher.

            Crane then came up with the idea of publishing his book under a pseudonym, and he chose the bland, almost forgettable name of “Johnston Smith.” “You see,” he explained, “I was going to wait until the world was pyrotechnic about Johnston Smith’s Maggie and then I was going to flop down like a trapeze performer from a wire, coming forward with all the grace of a consumptive hen, and say ‘I am he, friends’” (Stallman, Stephen Crane, p. 69; see “For Further Reading”).

            That Crane set out to épater les bourgeois—outrage the middle class—there can be little doubt. However, the intentionally scandalous nature of the book still left him with the problem of finding a publisher—a problem that seemed insurmountable. Following rejection after rejection, Crane was forced to suffer the ignominy of publishing the work himself, paying a house best known for medical texts and religious tracts to print the first edition of Maggie. In 1893 he paid $869 for 1,100 copies of a cheap-looking yellow paperback edition of the book. Johnston Smith, however, had ceased to exist—Stephen Crane’s name appears on the title page. The publisher’s name appears nowhere. Even under the canopy of anonymity the publisher had insisted that the manuscript be bowdlerized to a degree. Some of the rougher language and more violent scenes were removed or toned down. But Maggie: A Girl of the Streets was still pretty strong meat for its day, and Crane now waited (one senses with a degree of gleeful anticipation) for the hue and cry, the fierce literary arguments, the denunciations from the pulpits of every denomination, that would propel Maggie to best-sellerdom and make the young man’s fortune.

            Instead, silence. No newsstands or reputable bookshop would take the book on account of its incendiary nature—the only exception was Brentano’s, which took a dozen copies on consignment and returned ten. In desperation Crane took to giving away copies, dozens and dozens of them, and somehow, miraculously, the book found its way into the literary bloodstream, moving from one man of letters to another. When Crane’s spirits and fortunes were at their lowest ebb, he heard through a friend that his book had found its way into the hands of the well-respected author and critic William Dean Howells, who admired the book and announced that he would review it. The friend who gave Crane this welcome news was Curtis Brown, who would later become a prominent literary agent.

            Brown remembers: “If Crane had been told that Howells had condemned the book he might have heaved a sigh. But instead, given the welcome news, he seemed dazed. He looked around like a man who did not know where he was. He gulped something down his throat, grinned like a woman in hysterics and then went off to take up his vocation again” (Stallman, p. 71).

            But even with the enthusiastic support of the powerful Howells, the 1893 edition of Maggie could only be considered a failure. Just the same, the praise of a literary man whose opinion Crane respected seem to strengthen him and was enough, it seems, to make him “take up his vocation again.”

            This vocation led him to write his finest and best-known work, a novel that became an American classic: The Red Badge of Courage. Published in 1895 by the eminently respectable publishing house of Appleton and Company, the novel achieved huge sales and vast acclaim from the critics and reading public. Stephen Crane was suddenly thrust into the limelight he had sought, and had become, overnight, a literary figure to be reckoned with. He was also a rich young author, a guaranteed best-seller. As a result Maggie: A Girl of the Streets was reissued in 1896, and this time the manuscript was returned to its original state—all of the emendations and coy ellipses were removed. Red Badge of Courage may have made Crane’s reputation, but Maggie was first in his heart.

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