Scott had just written Great Expectations,and Gertrude Stein and I read it, and we said it was a good book, but there was no need to have written it, 'cause Charles Dickens had alreadywritten it.
Hemingway had just written his first novel, and Gertrude Stein and I read it, and we said that is was a good novel, but not a great one, andthat it needed some work, but it could be a fine book.
1. Claire Marie to Gertrude Stein, 18 February 1914, in The Flowers of Friendship: Letters Written to Gertrude Stein, ed. Donald Gallup (New York: Knopf, 1953), 95. The original letters are held at the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (cited hereafter as YCAL). Stein’s response is not in the Yale archives.
A rabbi, as it happens, has unexpectedly turned up in Alice Toklas’s biography. He is casually mentioned in a 1997 memoir by the Polish-born opera singer Doda Conrad, who lived and worked in Paris, and befriended Toklas in the last period of her life. Conrad writes of his chance encounter with Toklas in the early nineteen-fifties:
6. Stein, A Primer for the Gradual Understanding of Gertrude Stein, ed. Robert Bartlett Haas (Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1971), 25.
14. Gertrude Stein, Writings 1932–1946 (New York: Library of America, 1998), 303. In this same discussion, Stein insists heavily on the role of looking in her writing as integrated with talking and listening. “I lived my life with emotion and with things happening but I was creating in my writing simply by looking. I was as I say at that time reducing as far as it was possible for me to reduce them, talking and listening” (303). She concludes that such insights transferred to here plays and other work, such that “I had also come to have happening at the same looking and listening and talking without any bother about resemblances and remembering” (304).
4. Ulla E. Dydo, Gertrude Stein: The Language That Rises, 1923–1934 (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2003), 40–41; Gertrude Stein, “Poetry and Grammar,” in Stein: Writings 1932–1946, Vol. 2 (New York: Library of America, 1998), 323.
8. Gertrude Stein and Kay Turner, Baby Precious Always Shines: Selected Love Notes Between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), 4; cited in Retallack, “On Not Not Reading Stanzas in Meditation: Pressures and Pleasures of the Text,” 7.
1. Gertrude Stein, Stanzas in Meditation: The Corrected Edition, ed. Susannah Hollister and Emily Setina (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012), 170.
In the “Cook Book,” Toklas takes the joke a step further when she exclaims of an inconvenient gift of pigeons, “Six white pigeons to be smothered, to be plucked, to be cleaned and all this to be accomplished before Gertrude Stein returned for she didn’t like to see work being done.” But the work Toklas did for Stein was no joke. It was unending and evidently ungrudging.
11. Jayne Walker, The Making of a Modernist: Gertrude Stein from Three Lives to Tender Buttons (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1984), 136.
This faculty of Gertrude Stein of having everybody do anything for her puzzled the other drivers of the organization. Mrs. Lathrop who used to drive her own car said that nobody did these things for her. It was not only soldiers, a chauffeur would get off the seat of a private car in the place Vendôme and crank Gertrude Stein’s old ford for her. Gertrude Stein said that the others looked so efficient, of course nobody would think of doing anything for them. Now as for herself she was not efficient, she was good humored, she was democratic, one person was as good as another, and she knew what she wanted done. If you are like that she says, anybody will do anything for you. The important thing, she insists, is that you must have deep down as the deepest thing in you a sense of equality. Then anybody will do anything for you.
9. Marianne DeKoven, A Different Language: Gertrude Stein’s Experimental Writing (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983), 11–12.
This is pretty irresistible. But one should not make the mistake of assigning to Stein’s rhetoric of equality and one person being as good as another its usual left-wing label. Stein was a conservative with an increasingly reactionary bent—she loved the Republican Party, she hated Roosevelt, and she actually supported Franco. “She was a rentier, and possessed a rentier mentality in matters of taxes, jobs, and governments,” a young American friend, W. G. Rogers, wrote of Stein in a memoir entitled “When This You See Remember Me: Gertrude Stein in Person” (1948). He went on: