Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

May 20, 2019

coming in September 2019, ‘Gertrude Stein Has Arrived: The Homecoming of a Literary Legend’ by Roy Morris, Jr.

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:10 pm


by Roy Morris, Jr.

to be published September 2019 by Johns Hopkins University Press (264 pages)

gertrude in america

Very excited to learn about this forthcoming book on Gertrude Stein’s return to the United States in 1934-1935 for 171 days, a period during which she gave 74 lectures in 23 states, including one right down the road from me at the University of Texas in Austin!

Also excited to see that the person behind this project is Roy Morris, Jr., acclaimed Civil War historian, whose insightful works on Mark Twain and Walt Whitman have the benefit of a writer who knows intimately the cultural history of the eras in which the works were created but also has a fine eye for literary technique….and is one of the more literary popular historians writing today. Stein is truly an author in the “classic American” tradition of a Twain or a Whitman….she certainly viewed herself that way in any number of comments about herself and her role as an author.

Though she wrote mostly in a unique and uncompromising style, it was a style that was not based on the reader possessing any esoteric knowledge or the ability to recognize obscure allusions (as in, say, the work of Ezra Pound), and once readers “got” the concept of the work at hand (there are probably five or six major “styles” within Stein’s arsenal) and began to hear the always-clear voice behind the works, they essentially read themselves to you. They dictated how they would be read. Anyone who could understand then-contemporary movements in the other arts would really not have a problem “getting” what it is that Stein was doing. Whether they wanted to read long avant-garde works by her was another story. How much of the public would want to attend a massive Cy Twombly exhibition, for instance; yet one could explain the methodology of his work in 30 seconds in layperson’s terms to anyone, in the same way that one could “explain” the methodology of John Cage’s Number Pieces easily to any layperson. They are what they are. Of course, upon “understanding” the concept behind these artists’ pieces, some would ask, “why would anyone do that?” And they certainly have a right to feel that way. However, the works are not inaccessible without some kind of “key” or merely acting in the service of some critical theory.

Stein’s best-selling somewhat-fictionalized memoir THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ALICE B. TOKLAS made her a celebrity in popular culture, to the point that she is mentioned in books and films and radio shows of the mid-30’s. The Autobiography was written in an accessible style that was still 100% Stein and was a pleasure to read. It surely led to tens of thousands of readers finding and enjoying her other works. Once one gets the Stein habit, it does not go away, and there is such a large body of work to savor and be fascinated and transfixed by. The collection of her lectures from this tour of the USA, LECTURES IN AMERICA, was one of the first Stein books I owned (before I’d read many of the pieces she discusses in the lectures!), and I devoured it. The lectures are written in her characteristic style of expression, and as mentioned above, they essentially read themselves to you, as the reader lets go and allows the powerful rhythms of Stein’s language to carry them along like undertow at a Gulf Coast beach when you’ve gone out thirty or forty feet.

If you’d like to get a basic overview of the Stein American tour of 1934-1935, why not read an excellent article from Smithsonian Magazine in 2011, “When Gertrude Stein Toured America,” by Megan Gambino. Here’s the link to that…..                                  Smithsonian article on Stein’s 1934-35 US tour

Also nice to see that this is a Johns Hopkins University Press publication. Their 1995 reprint of Stein’s LAST OPERAS AND PLAYS, with an insightful introduction by Bonnie Marranca, is never far from my nightstand. Also, let’s not forget that Stein herself was a student at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine at one time, and it put a smile on my face to see that at Johns Hopkins University today, here in 2019, over 110 years after Stein attended Johns Hopkins, there is a student organization called THE GERTRUDE STEIN SOCIETY, “an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and allied members of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, including the Schools of Nursing, Public Health, and Medicine.” You can read more about that group here: Gertrude Stein Society at Johns Hopkins U

stein lec

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