Wednesday, 27th November 2002, 8:37pm
An opinion by: Rascal
 Everybody's Autobiography

Everybody's Autobiography by Gertrude Stein

I was looking over my shelves for a book to read when I re-discovered Gertrude Stein's Everybody's Autobiography. Oh looky here, it even still had the bookmark where I left off, so I don't have to hunt for my spot.

Initially this casual memoir was very exciting for me to read. Stein writes in her trademark lyrical loops - a rose is a rose is an etcetera - about noteworthy people, conversations and random thoughts on stuff. She takes an idea and looks at it upside down and sideways... all in a gentle manner that ends up being innocent and wry at the same time. I believe her when she says she's a genius. I just got tired of the genius about halfway through. Maybe it was because her subject matter changed. Maybe I preferred reading about her life in Europe than her American book and lecture tour. Or maybe I could only take so much of her writing style; it kept looping while I began skimming and lost the point of it all.

I was loving the bit where she and Alice B. Tolkas were living in France. She reports on Tolkas' best comments and mixes it all in with memories of childhood with her brother Paul. Her anecdotes about famous artists are as good fun as her observations about the household's tempermental car.

    "...However I did see Dali when he painted his big picture about William Tell. He said it showed the power of the father and child complex but said some one William Tell did not shoot the apple off his child's head because he wanted to he did not practice it every day in the garden as a form of sadism, Dali did not hear anything of this he was listening to himself tell about Freud and the feeling a father had about his children. And it was true enough that Dali's father had a feeling about his son and would not see him. But Dali is very earnest and does not go in hearing anything. Well anyway he came with his wife and Picasso did not come. We talked a great deal together but we neither of us listened very much to one another..."

About halfway through this autobiography Stein receives the good news that she's been asked to do a lecture tour in the United States. She is getting a prodigal's return to her homeland, all expenses paid. Good news for her but not so good for us as far as I'm concerned. I guess I'd rather read about the french provinces than Dallas, Texas. Also perhaps a bit too much detail on every stop on the journey. Still, to be fair, she's still got quite a few good'uns up her sleeve, such as when she's talking with a group of movie people in Hollywood:

    "...what was bothering them they wanted to know how I had succeeded in getting so much publicity, I said by having a small audience, I said if you have a big audience you have no publicity, this did seem to worry them and naturally it would worry them they wanted the publicity and the big audience, and really to have the biggest publicity you have to have a small one, yes all right the biggest publicity comes from the realest poetry and the realest poetry has a small audience not a big one, but it is really exciting and therefore it has the biggest publicity, all right that is it. Well after a little while we left, it had been an amusing evening."

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