Bon soir, everyone, this is post # 1 of many to come. I want to share my favorite Gertrude quotes with you, and this is one of them, right at the top of my list.
"Why do something if it can be done." No question mark. "Gertie" at her best, her most cool, nutty, witty, paradoxical, riddle-of-the-sphinx, Steinese ways. I feel the quote captures something essential about her, in one sentence, one line -- something about the world-changing work of writing.
Doing what can't be done is exactly what she did when she wrote, "A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose." 4 times. Sometimes starting with "A..." Sometimes not. Sometimes as a ring, like in her children's book "The World is Round." Did you know that it was Alice B. Toklas who discovered the rose in Gertrude's writing? Thanks to Alice's sharp, critical eye the rose not only appeared on the stationary used by Gertrude with the famous address, 27, Rue de Fleurus. Alice helped to establish "A rose is a rose..." as the most famous line of modern writing -- the emblem of modernism.
Tomorrow it will be exactly 75 years ago that Getrude and Alice set out from Paris to go on Gertrude's 6-month lecture tour through the United States -- her first and only return to her native country. In one of the lectures she gave at universities and colleges, she talks about the rose:
"Now listen! I'm no fool. I know that in daily life we don't go around saying 'is a...is a... is a...' Yes, I'm no fool; but I think that in that line the rose is red for the first time in English poetry for a hundred years." And right she was. (Her life-long friend Picasso used to say: "Gertrude is always right.")
Tomorrow it will also be almost exactly 15 years ago that the photobiography "Gertrude Stein: In Words and Pictures" (Algonquin) which I created as an homage to her is being republished. The book that had turned into a collectible will be published again very soon to mark these anniversaries. Gertrude comes around again, and again.
I want to tell you how for me, when I started out as a young girl reading literature and doing something that could not be done, one thing I could not do was reading Gertrude Stein...
But more about that next time!