The many lives of Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein is famous for many things: a prolific art collector, writer and poet, Stein was a major figure within the artistic and literary establishment. Her personal life has also garnered interest thanks to a long-term lesbian relationship with Alice Toklas. Yale University Press presents a number of books that cover the extraordinary life of Gertrude Stein from a range of different perspectives.

Gertrude the Children’s Writer…

To Do

To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays

‘Alphabets and names make games and everybody has a name and all the same they have in a way to have a birthday’, muses Gertrude Stein in To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays. Written in 1940 and intended as a follow-up to her children’s book The World Is Round, published the previous year, To Do is a fanciful journey through the alphabet. Each letter is represented by four names (including Gertrude for ‘G’) and features a short story told in verse.

‘This is a birthday book I would have liked as a child’, said Stein of To Do. Publishers rejected the manuscript as too complex for children, and it remained unpublished during Stein’s lifetime. A text-only version issued from Yale University Press in 1957. Now, more than seventy years after Stein penned the story, To Do is being published with illustrations, realizing the author’s original concept for the book. Giselle Potter’s witty and stylish illustrations provide a perfect complement to Stein’s uniquely whimsical world of words, creating a truly delightful, often hilarious, book that adults and children alike can appreciate and love. More

Gertrude the Art Collector…

The Steins Collect

The Steins Collect

As American expatriates living in Paris, Gertrude Stein, her brothers Leo and Michael, and Michael’s wife Sarah were absolutely pivotal in shaping the city’s vibrant cultural life in the early 20th century. They hosted Saturday evening salons at which the brightest artists, writers, musicians, and collectors convened to discuss the latest developments. They aggressively promoted and collected emerging painters and sculptors, particularly their close friends Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. And along the way they developed unparalleled holdings in modernist work by such figures as Paul Cezanne, Juan Gris, Francis Picabia, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-garde is the first comprehensive exploration of the Steins’ extraordinary collections and their enduring cultural influence. New research presented by historians, curators, and other experts explores the Steins’ impact on art-making and collecting practices in Europe and the United States; the intense sibling rivalries that developed around key artists and ideas; the roots of Leo’s aesthetic theories in the thought of William James and Bernard Berenson; Sarah and Michael’s role in founding the Academie Matisse; Gertrude’s complex relationship with Picasso and their artistic influence on each other; Le Corbusier’s radical villa design for the family; and, much more. The Steins Collect not only reveals the artistic prescience of this innovative family and their important patronage, but also traces how they created a new international standard of taste for modern art. More

Gertrude and Alice

Gertrude and Alice

Gertrude the Lover…

‘How had the pair of elderly Jewish lesbians survived the Nazis?’ Janet Malcolm asks at the beginning of this extraordinary work of literary biography and investigative journalism Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice. The pair, of course, is Gertrude Stein, the modernist master ‘whose charm was as conspicuous as her fatness’ and ‘thin, plain, tense, sour’ Alice B. Toklas, the ‘worker bee’ who ministered to Stein’s needs throughout their forty-year expatriate ‘marriage’. As Malcolm pursues the truth of the couple’s charmed life in a village in Vichy France, her subject becomes the larger question of biographical truth. ‘The instability of human knowledge is one of our few certainties’, she writes. The portrait of the legendary couple that emerges from this work is unexpectedly charged. The two world wars Stein and Toklas lived through together are paralleled by the private war that went on between them. This war, as Malcolm learned, sometimes flared into bitter combat.Two Lives is also a work of literary criticism. ‘Even the most hermetic of Stein’s writings are works of submerged autobiography’, Malcolm writes. ‘The key of “I” will not unlock the door to their meaning – you need a crowbar for that – but will sometimes admit you to a kind of anteroom of suggestion’. Whether unpacking the accessible Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, in which Stein ‘solves the koan of autobiography’, or wrestling with “The Making of Americans”, a masterwork of ‘magisterial disorder’, Malcolm is stunningly perceptive. More

Gertrude the Poet…

Stanzas in Meditation

Stanzas in Meditation

In the 1950s, Yale University Press published a number of Gertrude Stein’s posthumous works, among them her incomparable Stanzas in Meditation. Since that time, scholars have discovered that Stein’s poem exists in several versions: a manuscript that Stein wrote and two typescripts that her partner Alice B. Toklas prepared. Toklas’ work on the second typescript changed the poem when, enraged upon detecting in it references to a former lover, she not only adjusted the typescript but insisted that Stein make revisions in the original manuscript.

Stanzas in Meditation: The Corrected Edition is the first to confront the complicated story of its composition and revision. Through meticulous archival work, the editors present a reliable reading text of Stein’s original manuscript, as well as an appendix with the textual variants among the poem’s several versions. This record of Stein’s multi-layered revisions enables readers to engage more fully with the author’s radically experimental poem and also to detect the literary impact of Stein’s relationship with Toklas. The editors’ preface and poet Joan Retallack’s introduction offer insight into the complexities of reading Stein’s poetry and the innovative modes of reading that her works require and generate. Students and admirers of Stein will welcome this illuminating new contribution to Stein’s oeuvre. More

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