Read Novel on Yellow Paper (Revived Modern Classic) by Stevie Smith Online


It is 1935. Pompey works as a secretary for a magazine publisher and scribbles down her thoughts on yellow paper. The voice of the thirties rings out as she chatters on about the Catholic Church, sex education, Nazi Germany, Euripides and all sorts of things. But most of all she thinks of love....

Title : Novel on Yellow Paper (Revived Modern Classic)
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780811212397
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 264 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Novel on Yellow Paper (Revived Modern Classic) Reviews

  • MJ Nicholls
    2019-06-16 19:48

    Stevie Smith is rightly hailed as one of the finest poets of the 20thC, noted among many others for ‘Not Waving But Drowning’, a humorous and melancholy poem that found a second life as a Manic Street Preachers lyric. This short extemporised novel is droll, erudite, and exquisitely modernist in that charming manner of pre-war English fiction, helped along by Smith’s own wit (indebted to her reading of Dorothy Parker), and bizarre Latin coinages that seem entirely another world away now. A charming read.

  • Juliana
    2019-05-24 18:56

    My review:

  • Zanna
    2019-06-14 18:48

    This book is an ethnographic treasure. A fabulously unconventional young lower-middle class White woman with no pretensions to objectivity or representativeness narrates her thoughts as-they-come in England between the wars. As historical document, it's rubies and opalsWhether or not it is enjoyable depends on the reader. Smith is a 'foot-off-the-ground person' and generously warns off the other sort. She does not complete her thoughts or her stories and they follow one another in no kind of order. Her style is never serious, ranging from whimsical and disarmingly self-deprecating to crisply sardonic, especially on the social position of women and on sex. On the latter subjects I admire her, as on friendship and fellowship between women, but on politics and literature I cannot agree with her, though she speaks with clarity and some insight. I find her an extremely easy author to read; I run my eyes over the page and gather the meaning entire; I feel it leap from her heart to mine, but many readers will feel differently!

  • Buck
    2019-05-26 20:06

    Well, it's a novel, and it's written on yellow paper, but beyond that it's nothing like what you'd expect, unless you're expecting awesomeness, which it pretty much delivers.

  • Paula Bardell-Hedley
    2019-05-26 18:10

    I rather like Pompey Casmilus, the narrator of this slightly off-kilter stream of consciousness novel, which in Stevie Smith's opinion makes me a “foot-off-the-ground” sort of person. Not only is this a jolly good thing to be, but it is wholly necessary if one is to fully appreciate her exuberant chatter.This was Smith's first novel, printed in 1936, and could perhaps be described as a frenetic, not quite fictional, ingeniously funny memoir. The sagacious Pompey (secretary to magazine publisher, Sir Phoebus Ullwater) confabulates on topics as diverse as sex, The Church, Nazism, single women, death, matrimony and oh so much more. She discusses and analyses the people in her life - characters quite obviously based on Smith's actual friends and relatives – and leaves the reader feeling altogether exhilarated, enervated and not infrequently bewildered.I expect people either love or loathe this book. I loved it!NB The text is peppered with German words and expressions (Latin and French, too), but this wasn't a problem for me because my Kindle offered instant translation.

  • Bob
    2019-05-22 18:52

    Wonderfully idiosyncratic writing in the vein of the Joyce/Eliot-influenced modernism of the 1930s - even more reminiscent of Djuna Barnes but that may just be lumping all eccentric women of that period together. Impossible to say what it is about, but the narrative voice becomes increasingly funny and endearing, a breathless falling-over-itself colloquial tone that the writer said is intended to evoke everyday speech rather than high literary style, but you don't know anyone that talks like this unless you hang around with upper middle-class young British women who have somehow become displaced in time by 3/4s of a century or so. I may not be doing it justice but I am rushing to get back to it.Next day: finished. Really "startlingly original" though that sounds like lazy book review boilerplate (not as a bad as "finely observed first novel"). I am also somehow extra fascinated with people who lived just outside my range of experience, or barely overlapped - had I somehow met Stevie Smith in London in 1970 when I was ten years old, would it have made any impression and would I remember? Nonetheless, the possibility is intriguing.

  • Eileen
    2019-06-16 20:02

    It's hard to put anything about this one into words. "Novel" is more or less a misnomer; this is a discursive, stream-of-consciousness narrative, obviously pretty autobiographical, running over a wide variety of Smith's/Pompey Casimilus's experiences in England and Germany in the 30s. Interesting, half shocking, contemporary thoughts on anti-semitism, forming and unforming relationships, work, etc. She makes judgments throughout on her readers, telling straightforward plot-driven people to put the book down but the undecideds to keep going--I returned it to the library already or I'd go get the quote. It's worth reading.

  • Sarah
    2019-05-25 13:06

    Bought this for the cover picture - on my copy detail from 'Woman in Yellow' by Tamara de Lempicka. This is Catherine Carrington by Dora Carrington - and just as enticing! Well done Virago. Neither Stevie Smith nor Pompey Casmilus is to be summed up by the likes of me. Finishing it sent me to the poetry books and I can find only one book in the house with any of her poems - British Poetry since 1945 - so these three poems are possibly the only I have ever read. Easy to read but hard hitting on the heart and brain - no book at bedtime as I had to take up another book before I could sleep.....

  • Molly
    2019-06-15 21:10

    Underneath Stevie Smith's playful prose is a dead seriousness about the world. She just refuses to keep her feet on the ground. And I get that. It's almost insufferable, but not quite. In the meantime, there are some fabulous lines. "But oh how sure I am that it is so much better to have love with all its pains and terrors and fanaticism than to live untouched the life of the vegetable. But how it tears one, and how unruhig it is."

  • Peter Landau
    2019-05-27 17:49

    Stevie Smith was an English poet. Her collected works was recently published and I started casually skimming the volume, but it was NOVEL ON YELLOW PAPER, her first novel, that I wanted to start with. It was supposedly her response to a publisher she brought her poems to who suggested she write a novel instead, so she did, using the yellow paper from the office she worked in as assistant to some magazine executive. You can tell her prose is the work on a poet. It’s highly stylized in a tone that appears conversational but is dense with repetition, word play and almost the singsong quality of an oral tradition. She’s got personality and opinions about everything from Greek tragedy to sex and marriage. Her aunt, who’s described as a lioness, and her suitors float in and out of her narrative, which isn’t as much a narrative as a chatty encounter with an erudite and intelligent kook. And she’s so English that I felt as if a translator is needed to fully understand her. But even without a plot or, speaking for myself, a firm handle on what was going on, I loved her company.

  • Kirsty
    2019-06-12 15:52

    ‘But first, Reader, I will give you a word of warning. This is a foot-off-the-ground novel that came by the left hand. And the thoughts come and go and sometimes they do not quite come and I do not pursue them to embarrass them with formality to pursue them into a harsh captivity. And if you are a foot-off-the-ground person I make no bones to say that is how you will write and only how you will write. And if you are a foot-on-the-ground person, this book will be for you a desert of weariness and exasperation. So put it down. Leave it alone. It was a mistake that you made to get this book. You could not know.’The 27th entry on the Virago Modern Classics list, which has recently been reissued, is Novel on Yellow Paper, ‘the bestselling debut novel that made Stevie Smith a star’, and which took her only ten weeks to write. Published for the first time in 1936, and the first of only three novels, Novel on Yellow Paper feels thoroughly modern in many ways. Art historian and writer Frances Spalding believes that ‘Virginia Woolf’s roving consciousness lies behind the prose… but the tone owes more to Dorothy Parker…’. Upon its publication, the book was ‘acclaimed by some critics and abhorred by others’.The reprint features a new introduction by Rachel Cooke. She emphasises what Spalding says when she states that one literary figure of the period believed that this was the work of Woolf herself, published under the guise of a pseudonym. Originally a fan of Smith’s poetry – ‘it was her tone that really delighted me. Her irony, her wit, that slight edge of malice: these things spoke to a moody teenager. Her voice was irresistible, bending the world into a shape that was disorientatingly odd, even as it was instantly recognisable’ – Cooke was both amazed and awestruck by her prose. Of her writing, Cooke says that Smith ‘likened her fiction to the sea: on the surface bright and sunny, but seven miles down “black and cold”‘.Our protagonist, Pompey Casmilus, is Stevie’s own alter-ego, ‘a more antic version of herself’. She is ‘young, in love and working as a secretary for the magnificent Sir Phoebus Ullwater’. Cooke writes that there is ‘a certainty about Pompey; like her creator, she has the courage of her (somewhat weird) convictions’. Between her office duties, she ‘scribbles down – on yellow office paper – her quirky thoughts’. These thoughts go off at random tangents, and ‘her flights of inspiration’ consequently cover ‘Euripedes, sex education, Nazi Germany and the Catholic Church, shattering conventions in their wake’.Small strands of story and sharp observations wind their way through the novel – for example, ‘Yes, always someone dies, someone weeps, in tune with the laurels dripping, and the tap dripping, and the spout dripping into the water-butt, and the dim gas flickering greenly in the damp conservatory’. In this manner, one thought leads into another seemingly unconnected idea, and strange thoughts manifest and embed themselves. The sentence above, for example, is followed with this: ‘Like that flood that kid made in its cradle with that thar cunning cat sitting atop of it. And perhaps if the kid rode the flood o.k. that thar cat smothered it. For you can’t escape your fate. And I’ve known cats overlay babies. It was in the newspapers’. Smith surges from the present to the distant past and back again, placing Pompey’s present against the backdrop of the past. Due to this, at times, the plot – what little there is of it, really – can be rendered rather difficult to follow.Smith’s prose style is incredibly interesting – that perhaps goes without saying. Her writing swirls and spirals; sometimes it is almost rhythmical, and at others it is though a barrage of thoughts, which will never cease, have been unleashed upon the reader. Novel on Yellow Paper is a reading experience and a half, and is certainly one of the most experimental titles on the Virago list which I have come across to date. It isn’t the easiest of books to get into, and Pompey is not the best of narrators for a handful of reasons. The most grating element which I found about her was the way in which she refers to herself using both the first and third person perspectives. Whilst one cannot say that she is wonderfully developed, or well rounded, she is certainly a thoroughly interesting being, however: ‘And often I think, I have a sword hanging over my head that must fall one day, because I am conscious of sin in my black heart and I think that God is saving up something that will carry Pompey away’. The entirety of the book is intense and rather erratic – quite like the impression one forms of its narrator, really.Whilst the stream of consciousness style which has been used here is decidedly Woolfian, the same exhilaration and beauty cannot be found in Smith’s work. Novel on Yellow Paper does not read anywhere near as well as Virginia Woolf’s work does, in my opinion. Whilst it is clear that she was inspired by Woolf’s groundbreaking writing style, I do not feel that some elements here have been controlled as well as they could have been; or, indeed, explored and discussed as well as Woolf would have handled them. It is as though Smith saw the entirety of her novel merely as an experiment, rather than as an exercise to create a wondrously memorable work of fiction. Pompey herself writes that ‘this book is the talking voice that runs on, and the thoughts come, the way I said, and the people come too, and come and go, to illustrate the thoughts, to paint the moral, to adorn the tale’.Novel on Yellow Paper is a melancholy work, breathy and almost exhausting to read in places. It is not a novel to be taken lightly; the whole is memorable and quite powerful in places. The novel’s sequel, Over the Frontier, has also been reissued by Virago, and is sure to be of interest to all of those who are drawn into Smith’s experimental style.

  • Jane
    2019-05-19 17:57

    Read for Just Read readathon, sponsored by Reema RattanI think this is the fourth book of this type I've read for Just Read - the vignettey, not-quite-a-novel-not-quite-a-memoir, impressionistic kinda thing: My Struggle, The Argonauts, Speedboat and now this (and in between, on the side, Luke Carman's An elegant young man...). Read in isolation, I think Novel on Yellow Paper would have delighted me, but right now I want to read a book set in an imaginary world with a gripping story line and characters that are clearly not the author. But it's not Stevie's fault.

  • Aerial Nun
    2019-06-02 21:02

    I love the idea of this book more than the book itself: I love that a British woman in modernist times was able to write a book though she wasn't independently wealthy. I love the conceit, still relevant as ever, of a creative work written while one is trudging away at their uncreative work. Stevie Smith delivers some sweet sentences, and the plight of the woman who loves a man but doesn't love the idea of "belonging" to him is an important arc. Read this book as an artifact, and there's a lot to admire. As a narrative, it wears a bit thin.

  • Andy
    2019-05-29 18:11

    At first this appears vague and wandering, but it is stylised and contains snippets of poetry, observational humour and real insight. Occasionally profound. Mostly should be read as one reads poetry – even though it is outwardly prose - although does contain some passages that can only be read as prose. Lyrical. Beautiful.

  • Alex Watson
    2019-06-11 17:56

    Written in the mid 1930s - many years before she became the famous, much anthologised poet - this sees Stevie Smith's alter ego Pompey recording her thoughts as she wanders through the London suburbs and Berlin. It feels not unlike several rather brilliant poems wrapped in a longer free-form, unstructured prose piece that felt flat to me.

  • Jane E
    2019-06-02 21:02

    Many of the ideas contained in her "novel" show a woman way before her time. It is hard to believe that it was written in the 1930s. However, the book is too non-linear for me. As Pompey describes it I prefer a foot-on-the-ground-novel. (Purchased secondhand at Judd Books, London)

  • Kelly Sauskojus
    2019-06-05 20:57

    Charming, girlish, and wise with the wisdom of a cynical, well-read twenty-year-old. So thankful to be introduced to this writer for class.

  • Alisong
    2019-06-16 14:05

    Must be in a particular mood to enjoy, and perhaps best read aloud.

  • Mark Cooley
    2019-05-22 12:54

    Impossible to rate this one, but I tried. Stevie Smith is somehow beyond the star system.

  • Val
    2019-05-19 20:59

    Pompey works as a personal assistant and when she is not typing letters and speeches on blue office paper she puts down whatever thoughts occur to her on yellow office paper, which I suppose makes it look as though she is busy. That is the premise of the book, although I'm sure a bit more construction went into it than it appears.The result is a curiosity, with a certain amount of contemporary relevance and quirky humour, a couple of failed love affairs and a lot of playing around with words.

  • Wayne
    2019-05-16 15:03

    In contrast to Stevie Smith's poetry this reads as a book of its time,England in the 1930's,whereas the poems are more timeless and general in their grasp of the Human Condition.Certainly the Human Condition is here in the novelbut it is sometimes dated and narrow.Although the section on girls and marriageis too current for comfort.So a mixed bag and certainly an interesting read on many levels.Its origins lie in a delicious irony.Having rejected her poems, the naive publishertold her to "go away and write a novel."This was also rejected as being too much of a risk.Risk?? To sales? Or the human psyche?At least thhe poems read simply, although something akin to nursery rhymes with a knife stuck through their gut.To let Stevie loose on a novel just produced one long, anarchic whine of black-humoured realism.But entertaining because that she definitely is.But digestible???We are confronted with a broken, repetitive, often obscure stream of consciousness, scatty and anarchic,which like most things we stick with by people of talent becomes enjoyable.The repetitions become poetic, for example.Not far into the novel,Stevie herself discusses her style:"For this book is the talking voice that runs on,and the thoughts come, the way I said...Oh, talking voicethat is so sweet, how hold you alive in captivity,how point you with commas, semi-colons,dashes, pauses and paragraphs?"So it is a artistic struggle that we are experiencing as well!!!On the final page we meet quite another struggle:"There is for you a mass of detail and a false conclusion. For me but one significant fact that stands out,and for which I would live and die. But this fact. That is this fact. That is. That is what I cannot bring myself to write. It has been written so many times and soiled with every falsenessand every base stupidity. Can you not see it? Oh little creature form'd of joy and mirth, Go, love without the help of anything on earth.The death of her mother,the profound impersonal quality of nature and finally the humiliating death of...a tigerconclude an original work of art.Have fun..if you dare.

  • Cristina
    2019-06-13 15:00

    I liked Stevie Smith's Novel on Yellow Paper, and who knows--I may just love it once I've lived with it a bit longer. It reminds me of what James Joyce and T.S. Eliot were doing in 1922 with Ulyssess and The Waste Land, respectively: stream-of-consciousness, mixed formats (poetry, prose, lots of allusive scrap-book type passages), and relatively "vague" characterizations. We see people, but we never truly get a sense of "knowing" them. Everyone is "nice" or "sweet," but typically for material or superficial reasons. In addition to the Joyce/Eliot combination, Smith's novel also reminds me of a British Beatnik road novel (before the beatniks were truly out and about). Like Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Smith's "doppelganger" protagonist, Pompey, is constantly on the move, but all over Europe, going where her friends are and loving, losing, questioning, and experiencing life as much as she can. This is modernist literature showing all its possibilities, and from a female perspective, which makes a nice companion piece to Joyce and Eliot's works, as well as a foreshadowing of what would later become a counterculture in America, and elsewhere.

  • Ingrid
    2019-05-20 17:09

    This book is definitely not for those who love straight-forward plots and prose. The book reads like a poem. It takes time to read, too, re-reading passages to figure out what she means, much like one of the more dense Joyce novels. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and thought the character of Pompey had amazing insights and was an especially forward thinker for the time (20th century in the years immediately leading up to WWII). She questions and struggles with the unity of marriage, the church, love, lust, suicide, people with more down-to-earth goals in life and those with more of a free spirit who don't want to be tied down by commonalities and mundane day-to-day things, etc. Pompey also is suffering a sort of break down from a failed relationship, and it is lovely to see her reveal this throughout the book. It's more stream of consciousness but with a very defined purpose. Stevie Smith, in all her writing, is full of intent, full of deeper meanings. I so much adore the character of Pompey. Novel on Yellow Paper is for those who like JD Salinger's short stories, e.e. cummings poetry, and the insight of Graham Greene (very specifically, if you loved the diary part of The End of the Affair like I did, you'll enjoy this book).

  • Kristine
    2019-06-16 18:07

    I chose this book because Barbara Pym stated it to be one of her favorites. Since I really like Barbara Pym's novels, I was intrigued. Novel on Yellow Paper was written by Stevie Smith, in the 1930's. Basically, the novel contains the thoughts of Pompey Casmilus, a secretary of a magazine publisher. She writes on yellow office paper whatever is on her mind, however, I found the novel hard to follow. When Pompey focuses on one subject, it isn't so difficult, but then she jumps to another subject or just writes a bunch of nonsense run-on sentences. The back of the book says, "Novel on Yellow Paper remains one of the masterpieces of twentieth-century literature." That was a curious statement to me, because the book is basically about nothing and makes little sense.

  • Will
    2019-06-12 19:51

    I have no idea if Stevie Smith wrote this as near-automatic fiction (consistently comic fiction kind of has to be), but the narrative rhythm is so smooth but spontaneous that it reads that way. In her own words:"This is a foot-off-the-ground novel that came by the left hand. And the thoughts come and go and sometimes they do not quite come and I do not pursue them to embarrass them with formality to pursue them into a harsh captivity. And if you are a foot-off-the-ground person I make no bones to say that is how you will write and only how you will write. And if you are a foot-on-the-ground person, this book will be for you a desert of weariness and exasperation. So put it down. Leave it alone. It was a mistake for you to get this book. You could not know."

  • Darren
    2019-06-13 14:51

    Not really a novel, more a series of (very) loosely connected anecdotes/observations/commentaries/diversions etc. What it most reminded me of was the script for a stand-up routine (albeit a wryly rather than laugh-out-loudly funny one). I enjoyed the authentic feel of a "voice" from the 1930's and the uniqueness of the voice itself, and the poetic style. Quite short, but needed to be read slowly to fully appreciate. This is a "keeper" though, and I suspect that next time I read it I might bump it up to 4 stars (especially if between-times I swot up on my German!).(Oh, and it inspired me to go and read Phèdre!)

  • Double Vision
    2019-06-01 16:12

    Stacatto is the word we used to use to describe this type of author's prose style. Her writing ability is rightly praised as brilliant, authentic, honest. I thought at first she was one of the 'Chrome Yellow' set, and I suppose she is, just the suburban variety. Smith's opinions are delivered in short bursts of luminescence. Pompey Casmilus is a Roman ruin and reading 'Novel on Yellow Paper', you feel like a Christian being martyred by a thousand slaps, shielding yourself ineffectually, sometime hoping it would stop. This is epecially true when smug and oh-so-not superior colonial Little England strains to break through her broadmindedness.

  • Lake Oz Fic Chick
    2019-05-28 13:12

    First published in London in 1936, this edition of Stevie Smith’s offbeat Novel on Yellow Paper is printed on yellow paper as “a Revived Modern Classic.” It’s a stream-of-consciousness narrative that comes with a warning: ‘This is a foot-off-the-ground novel that came by the left hand... And if you are a foot-on-the-ground person, this book will be for you a desert of weariness and exasperation.’ Pompey Casmilus, the narrator, is a distracted secretary whose ramblings -- on everything from Nazism to sex to the Catholic Church – make up this ‘novel.’ Her main preoccupation, under all the chatter, is this: must she marry?

  • Chloe MH
    2019-06-03 15:02

    This book is confusing, and not written well enough to be endearing. I was very eager to like it, but I just gave up once she started randomly quoting various mismatched references. A book needs some sort of flow, a narrative that is not cohesive needs to be interesting and engaging enough to encourage you to pursue. This just failed to be anything other than some beautiful inspired poetry dragged out and muddled with a dull and irrelevant narrative.

  • Misabelina
    2019-05-29 18:55

    There's stream-of-consciousness and then there's this - the closest rendering of pure thought committed to text I've ever had the pleasure of. There's much that's problematic about this book (Pompey's unrepentant examination of her anti-Semitic bias, for example), but the sheer looping joy and sparking fun of the prose puts it in my top 3. A re-read treasure.