Gertrude Stein: In Words and Pictures

A very handy book to push you quickly through Stein’s biography with the help of her own words and photos taken of her and Alice throughout their years. Of primary interest to me were her formative years early on in Paris, when she’s still living with Leo and he’s doing the talking while she’s doing the listening. Once he’s gone, she then finds her voice. There’s also that very ugly quote by Leo in his Journey to the Self, “Gertrude and I are just the contrary. She’s basically stupid and I’m basically intelligent.” Alas, poor misguided Leo.

1913 was a seminal year, one I keep tripping over wherever I look. This book claims that in this year she meets Carl Van Vechten and they “invent the story of having originally met at the tumultuous opening night of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps, performed by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.” This struck a bolt of remembering through me– I just finished reading Florine Stettheimer’s biography, who was pals with Vechten back in NYC, and who was most unabashedly moved by that very same opening night of the ballet by Diaghilev. So did Van Vechten concoct that story after hearing Stettie talk about it?

There is also the 1930 first and only meeting between Stein and James Joyce, someone she’s forbidden to be mentioned in her salon. Why the strong antipathy? It can’t be from jealousy, Stein didn’t seem to have that sort of constitution.

There’s a lovely 1929 interview with Jane Heap, who asks “What is your attitude toward art today?” and Stein’s response, “I like to look at it.” This closely mirrors all of the other answers to the ten questions, brief, Stein-ian.