Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Anniversary of the Birth of Gertrude Stein

The Aquarians really do it for me (Virginia Woolf, my beloved, Gertrude Stein. . . .)
From The Writer’s Almanac
It's the birthday of the avant-garde novelist and poet Gertrude Stein, (books by this author) born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania (1874). She was one of the early students at Radcliffe College, the sister school to Harvard University, and her favorite professor was the psychologist William James. He taught her that language often tricks us into thinking in particular ways and along particular lines. As a way of breaking free of language, he suggested she try something called automatic writing: a method of writing down as quickly as she could whatever came into her head. She loved it, and used it as one of her writing methods for the rest of her life.
In one of her first novels, The Making of Americans, she started out writing about an American family, but because she wanted to incorporate everything that had led up to the life of this family, her novel grew into a 900-page history of the entire human race. She finished it in 1908, but it took her 17 more years to get it published.
Stein's first book to attract attention was Tender Buttons (1914), a book-length prose poem based on her automatic writing. Her most popular book was the one she wrote about herself from the point of view of her lover, Alice B. Toklas, called The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933).
Gertrude Stein wrote: 

I am Rose my eyes are blue
I am Rose and who are you?
I am Rose and when I sing
I am Rose like anything.

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