Learning to Appreciate Gertrude Stein

June 23, 2022


I have been someone who admired the idea of Gertrude Stein from afar; I’m sure I read some Stein decades ago but really was too lazy to work my way through her word soup of a style. However there is an article this month on JSTOR Daily that helps me have a better understanding of this fountainhead of modernism.

“The work of … Gertrude Stein is at times puzzling, but always delightful because language becomes a playground, a landscape populated with metallic swings which sway sideways; monkey bars with labyrinthine constructions; everything necessarily, and properly, out of joint, like Hamlet’s time/sense. Stein warps reality to give us a taste—or perhaps an impression of—beginning and beginning again, but from different points within the Venn diagram of paragraphically rich distortions.”

The author links Stein’s modernism with one of my favourite genres, the detective story. Stein

“believed that detective fiction—in the American tradition of Dashiell Hammett … could lay the groundwork for a new type of fiction. Stein was a modernist in that very modernist way of not being easy to read, or to understand, whose works fractured narrative expectation from word one.”

A good brief history of Stein’s work and its intermingling with the development of noir and early sci-fi makes this a worthwhile read.

Image: Family At Beach

June 23, 2022