Gertrude Stein - Literary Career

Literary Career

While living in Paris, Gertrude began writing for publication. Her earliest writings were mainly retellings of her college experiences. Her first critically acclaimed publication was Three Lives. In 1911, Mildred Aldrich introduced Gertrude to Mabel Dodge Luhan and they began a short-lived but fruitful friendship during which the wealthy Mabel Dodge promoted Gertrude's legend in the United States.

Mabel was enthusiastic about Gertrude's sprawling publication The Makings of Americans and, at a time when Gertrude had much difficulty selling her writing to publishers, privately published 300 copies of Portrait of Mabel Dodge at Villa Curonia, a copy of which was valued at $25,000 in 2007. Dodge was also involved in the publicity and planning of the 69th Armory Show in 1913, "the first avant-garde art exhibition in America."

In addition, she wrote the first critical analysis of Gertrude's writing to appear in America, in "Speculations, or Post-Impressionists in Prose", published in a special March 1913 publication of Arts and Decoration. Foreshadowing Gertrude's later critical reception, Mabel wrote in "Speculations":

In Gertrude Stein's writing every word lives and, apart from concept, it is so exquisitely rhythmical and cadenced that if we read it aloud and receive it as pure sound, it is like a kind of sensuous music. Just as one may stop, for once, in a way, before a canvas of Picasso, and, letting one's reason sleep for an instant, may exclaim: "It is a fine pattern!" so, listening to Gertrude Steins' words and forgetting to try to understand what they mean, one submits to their gradual charm.

Mabel attributed the end of their friendship to an exchange in the autumn of 1912 when, during lunch, Gertrude sent her "such a good strong look over the table that it seemed to cut across the air to me in a band of electrified steel—a smile traveling across on it—powerful—Heavens!". Alice interpreted the look as a flirtation and left the room, prompting Gertrude to follow, and when Gertrude returned, she said, " doesn't want to come lunch.... She feels the heat today." The salon, and the people that came to visit it, provided the inspiration for The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.

Stein and Carl Van Vechten, the noted critic and photographer, became acquainted in Paris in 1913. The two became lifelong friends, devising pet names for each other: Van Vechten was “Papa Woojums,” and Stein, “Baby Woojums.” Van Vechten served as an enthusiastic champion of Stein’s literary work in the United States, in effect becoming her American agent.

Read more about this topic:  Gertrude Stein

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