Monday, April 30, 2012

Look at me now and here I am: PRETENTIOUS!

There is something seriously wrong with Gertrude Stein’s writing style, something RAINMAN wrong. I picked up a collection of her work, Look at me now and here I am and it's not clear why it was bound in book form. She just as well could have put letters on a Rubik’s cube and scrambled.
literary lion AND a dead ringer for Spencer Tracy!
Reading Gertrude Stein is like staring at those 5-D images you have to cross your eyes, twist, squint and VOILA! The image appears just as it quickly vanishes again. Oh yes, she’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery and splattered with nonsense.

She was a renowned art collector and was bosom buddies with Picasso. She penned a “portrait” of him which reveals why they were so close. Because she wrote it in cubist!

Here’s a short excerpt from Picasso's portrait:

“One whom some were certainly following and some were certainly following him, one whom some were certainly following was certainly working. One whom some were certainly following was one having something coming out of him something having meaning and this one was certainly working then.”

Dizzy? Stein had a famous salon, hanging out with Alice B. Toklas, Picasso and even her brother up to a point. No doubt her brother left because he couldn’t appreciate her writing in the way he should have appreciated her writing most people that way appreciate and some would have appreciated if they knew to appreciate and what they were appreciating when. Good grief, Gertrude, I can write in circles, too! Yes, Leo Stein ran out of that salon hands flailing overhead because she had just showed him a draft of his literary portrait. 

Stein is so in love with herself that she works up all into a frothy lather. You just know the woman is typing with one hand while fingering herself with the other: 

No matter how complicated anything is, if it is not mixed up with remembering there is no confusion, but that is the trouble with a great many so called intelligent people they mix up remembering with talking and listening, and as a result they have theories about anything but as remembering is repetition and confusion, and being existing that is listening and talking is action and not repetition intelligent people although they talk as if they knew something are really confusing, because they are so to speak keeping two times going at once, the repetition time of remembering and the actual time of talking but, and as they are rarely talking and listening, that is the talking being listening and the listening being talking, although they are clearly saying something they are not clearly creating something, because they are because they always are remembering, they are not at the same time talking and listening. Do you understand. Do you any or all of you understand. Anyway that is the way it is. And you hear it even if you do not say it in the way I say it as I hear it and say it. 

No I don’t understand.  I don’t understand why you can’t punctuate. I don’t understand why you hate a question mark as much as Proust hates a full stop. But what I love is that within this jumble, this literary autism, you’re attempting to explain how to unconfuse communication. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Darling, you shouldn’t have skimmed Thoreau!

I’ve never read someone with less regard for a reader. But the Times designated her, “one of the greatest writers of modern times!” so perhaps I should give her more of a chance? Maybe it’s like when I first read Shakespeare and hated it. Or like when I first read Catcher in the Rye and threw it across the room because Holden was so infuriating. Or when I watched Fellini’s non-narrative "masterpiece" 8 ½? Taking on a brand new style is always a mind-bending challenge. 

But I've yet to warm to Gertrude. Incidentally, I still don't fancy 8 ½ but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate Fellini. I can also appreciate Gertrude Stein. She was a very important art collector. 

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