Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

Interpretations of Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson "Four Saints in Three Acts" (1927-1928)
Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson "The Mother of Us All" (1947)
The Complete Gertrude Stein's "The Making of Americans" read by Gregory Laynor
Marian Seldes reads from "The Making of Americans" and "Lectures in Amerca"
Gertrude Stein and Al Carmines 'In Circles'
Softpalate Gertrude Stein plays in UbuWeb Sound

Gertrude Stein Reading Her Own Works

Working notes by Ulla Dydo

The Making Of Americans
Written 1903 - 1911. Only very early notes were written in 1903 in New York; basically the novel was rewritten and rewritten in Europe. 
The Making of Americans: Parts 1 & 2 (5:38), recorded in New York, Winter 1934-35

Written in Paris, early 1911
Matisse (2:47), New York, Recorded in New York, Winter 1934-35

A Valentine to Sherwood Anderson
Written in Paris, 1922
A Valentine to Sherwood Anderson (3:46), Recorded in New York, Winter 1934-35

If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso: Written late Aug. 1923 in Nice / Antibes, where S & T went to see Picasso. Picasso returned to Paris early September, but Stein, working steadily, stayed on for 3 full months, far longer than her usual, short visits.
If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso (3:42), recorded in New York, Winter 1934-35

The Fifteenth Of November . . . T. S. Eliot
Written Paris, fall 1924, perhaps upon Eliot's visit to rue de Fleurus.
MP3 (3:16)

Portrait of Christian Bérard
Written December  1928 in Paris, in appreciation of Bérard's portrait of Stein that was to become the frontispiece of the first 100 signed copies of DIX PORTRAITS.
Portrait of Christian Bérard (0:49)

Madame Recamier. An Opera.
Written in Biligmin, September 1930. Only a very short excerpt of this long text is included in the record. perhaps for lack of (recording) space. It's unfortunate, for this short excerpt in no way represents the libretto.
Madame Recamier: An Opera (3:25), Recorded in New York, Winter 1934-35

How She Bowed To Her Brother
Written in Paris, late 1931. Title used here (with "How") is in ms and in opening sentence; other publications leave out the "how."
How She Bowed To Her Brother (2:18)

Interview 1934 (1:19).
Probably the Interview at the Algonquin Hotel, November 1934, upon Stein's arrival.


If I Told Him A Completed Portrait of Picasso

From 1906 on, Picasso was the great artist and the great friend in Stein's life. His portrait of her and hers of him joined his art to hers and hers to his as both were also joined in friendship. "Portraits and prayers," the phrase first used in An Elucidation, speaks of the juncture of the visual and verbal, painting and writing, Picasso and Stein.

In the powerful rhythmic construction of this portrait, the repeated questions and incomplete sentences question completion and refuse to name what history teaches. In the Autobiography Stein says that she delighted that summer in the waves on the shore at Antibes, where the portrait was written, as was Geography. The waves are more than background. Inside the portrait they become Picasso's creative energy; the conquering armies of the leader, whether Napoleon or Picasso; his power over the empire of art, which might yet, like Napoleon's, crumble; and the fickle sexuality, misogyny, and flattery characteristic of Picasso. Would he like it if she told him all this? Would he like it if she told on him? Would he like what she knows about him? Such questions, with their tone of gossip and threat, flattery and secrecy, are also never answered but persistently and rhythmically repeated.

The manuscript shows an interesting textual discrepancy in the text, which is here restored to the handwritten original. In the section on "exact resemblance," a period before "To exact" in the manuscript makes the difference between an adjective and a verb: "Exact resemblance. To exact resemblance the exact resemblance as exact as resemblance, exactly as resembling, exactly and resembling. . . ." The verb "to exact" adds energy to the creative struggle. Stein explores all possible forms in which "exact" can be joined with "resemblance."

The geography of this portrait is internal, sexual, procreative, in its sucking, pushing, and heaving. It also becomes the actual geography of the coast of the Midi–the waves, the tides, and the land that compose Geography.

A Valentine to Sherwood Anderson

The valentine was written in St.-Rémy, not for Valentine's Day, which is hardly the only occasion for a love poem. For Stein, the occasion was the publication of Geography and Plays in December 1922. She was indebted to Sherwood Anderson for the foreword, which added to her book a prominent name likely to make for sales and critical attention, as the publisher acknowledged. The "valentine" is an appreciation, an offering of thanks to Anderson. At the same time, most of the sections of the valentine are a love poem to Toklas, though she is not named. Without her inspiration and practical help neither Geography and Plays nor any other book could have been produced. She was the moving force behind Stein.

The text and title of this piece went through changes. It is not known whether the sections were composed in the order in which they are printed, nor is the order or time of revisions of the title clear. Given the hints of Christmas and the late 1922 date of composition, the piece cannot have been written for Valentine's Day. The title "A Valentine," without a name, inscribes it to an unnamed recipient, plainly Toklas. Another title is Idem the Some. The piece later became "A Portrait of Sherwood Anderson," revised to A Valentine to Sherwood Anderson. Idem the Same appears in the form in which students memorize it, the Latin word followed immediately by its English translation, which makes the phrase redundant since it twice says what it means. But what is "the same" as what else is not stated. It may be one valentine written for or about two people, or two people who are both valentines of the writer. However, the valentine is a text inscribed to Anderson, with a subtext for or about Toklas, not named.

On the back of the notebook for this piece are tiny private love verses to Toklas. Some become sections of the text. In the notes, details of "A Very Valentine" appear in more personal form than in typescript and in print. The original line "Very Stein is my valentine very Stein and very fine" becomes in print "Very mine is my valentine very mine and very fine." Stein and Toklas are each other's valentines, two lovers who are one, idem the same.

The valentine has a pastoral, religious tone and a formal, processional feeling, with counting and lists of diverse detail in order of size, such as pervade much of Stein's writing in St.-Rémy. "A very little snail. / A medium sized turkey. / ... / A fair orange tree. /. . . / Listen to them from here." Alice Toklas said that as Stein wrote "A History Of Giving Bundles" she inserted into it, presumably at the hotel in St.- Rémy, the figures and gifts from a procession to the Christmas criche on the mantle. Never heavy and systematic, the poem plays lyrically and lightly, as if ringing changes or offering blessings to creatures, to nautre, and in words.

--Ulla Dydo

From A Gertrude Stein Reader, Northwestern University Press, 1993

These sound recordings are being made available for noncommercial and educational use only. All rights to this recorded material belong to the Estate of Gertrude Stein. © 2005 Estate of Gertrude Stein. Used with permission of Estate of Gertrude Stein, through its Literary Executor, Mr. Stanford Gann, Jr. of Levin & Gann, P.A Distributed by Penn Sound and UbuWeb.


Gertrude Stein in UbuWeb Film
Gertrude Stein in UbuWeb Historical