Monday, February 3, 2014

Birthday Genius: Gertrude Gertrude Gertrude

Happy 140th to that very great woman and very great author, Miss Gertrude Stein.

I particularly like this photo not only because it shows her so comfortably at home somewhere in the French countryside, nor just because it also includes the inevitable and devoted Miss Toklas, but also because it appears that Miss Stein shares my enthusiasm for that most comfortable of at-home garments, the Arab galabeya.

An affinity for flowing garments isn't the only thing we share; for years I've been very taken with how very great a role birth order in the family can play in one's life, and like me, Miss Stein is a quintessential youngest child. In Wars I Have Seen, she wrote:

I was the youngest of the children and as such naturally I had privileges the privilege of petting the privilege of being the youngest one. If that does happen it is not lost all the rest of one s life, there you are you are privileged, nobody can do anything but take care of you, that is the way I was and that is the way I still am, and any one who is like that necessarily liked it. I did and do.

Me, too.

Anyone, by the bye, who says Stein is impossible to read has probably never either heard her read aloud or tried to do so him or herself.  By and large, if you read it carefully and clearly, it all falls into place and becomes, if not clear, at least a great more commonsensical, which is something that Stein almost always is.

I suspect she would not be one whit surprised to know that people are still thinking of her on her 140th.  Certainly Alice wouldn't be.  Here's to many more, in the spirit of knowing, as all true Steinites do, that rose is indeed a rose is a rose is a rose.


  1. She was a marvel, and DV was right: You just couldn't take a bad picture of that old girl.

  2. One of the great pleasures of picking up an anthology of prose poems called Models Of The Universe was reading selections from Tender Buttons.

    But my favorite thing about Gertrude Stein is citing "A rose is a rose is a rose" as the only truly perfect metaphor.