Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 100

 Why do a Selfie if it can be done.

Why Do a Selfie If It Can Be done.

Why Do a Selfie If It Can Be done.

What does a selfie do.

I have refused them so often and left them out so much and did without them so continually that I have come finally to be indifferent to them. …

As I say selfies are servile and they have no life of their own, and their use is not a use, it is a way of replacing one’s interest and I do decidedly like to like my own interest my own interest in what I am doing. A selfie by helping you along holding your coat for you and putting on your shoes keeps you from living your life as actively as you should lead it and to me for many years and I still do feel that way about it only now I do not pay as much attention to them, the use of them was positively degrading. Let me tell you what I feel and what I mean and what I felt and what I meant.


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Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 99

“The New Bride of Frankengert,” courtesy Tom Hachtman –

Alias: “The Bride of Gertrudestein“ (see Gertrude Follies # 69)

Happy Halloween!

the new bride of GS“Ladies there is no neutral position for us to assume.” (Gertrude Stein, Last Operas and Plays)

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Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 98



GS & A Wedding America in the throes of a romantic revolution. If Gertrude and Alice had known! The lesbian pioneers lived their lifelong devotion discreetly but nevertheless quite in the public eye. Nobody who wasn’t half blind could have misunderstood what was going on, even dear young Hemingway who was lusting after Gert.

Creating a heavenly wedding for G &A and inviting them to the big party of American newly-weds was easy: old-fashioned scissors and glue plus Google.

Search # 1: “fat women’s wedding dresses”. (No need to be offended. One of the intimate nicknames in G &A’s love life was “Fatuski”.)

Search # 2: “old-fashioned wedding dresses”.

A few minutes later, I knew how to dress them for the occasion. Queen Elizabeth II was the right frilly thing and body-type to fit Alice in a queenly fashion that would certainly satisfy her king, Gert the First and Only.


Search # 3: Which photograph among the 366 of my book Gertrude Stein in Words and Pictures would be understated enough for these two women of wit? Page 139, no doubt. Alice grumpy comme toujours, Gertrude pleased because she just remembered a pleasing quote from her vast body of work.

Now the game for Facebook.

As I had promised 2 books to the 2 first winners who would guess whose wedding dress Alice was wearing in heaven, I didn’t give away how hot on the trail the first guess already was: Kate Middleton. Almost! And zap, right into target with the second guess! Fortunately, this didn’t convince the rest of the players, at least for a while. Some thought I would stay close to home and make up a not-yet-existing-wedding  dress for my life companion Kim (Chernin). (Note to winner Hannah Roche: Kim would look good, too.) In any case, for all my readers who are not on Facebook, here — for your contemplation and chuckles — are the propositions of the sophisticated fashionistas:

Marcel Duchamp in his femme alter ego Rrose Selavy (Duchamp was a friend of G & S and admired Stein’s style).

Pab’s christening gown: G & A were adoring aunties of Picasso’s first-born baby son, although there might  have been a bit of a size problem.

Coco Chanel. Interesting. Maybe there was a sailor collar at the back of her dress, in case…
Liz Taylor: close, as Gertrude and Alice visited Hollywood in 1935 and taught the stars gathered around her how to get as much publicity as she did (see page 183 in my book).

Q.E.: The mystery! Quod Erat… Could there be a D missing? Q.E.D. famously was the title of Stein’s hush-hush lesbian novel of 1903 that caused a big upset in the “marriage.”

And then, so close to home: Diana! Diana whose skirt was so huge it got all crushed in the fairytale coach…

Now Pierre Balmain: if G &A had really been able to marry, you bet Pierre would have designed some good, heavy corduroy wedding suits to two women ahead of their time.

So, congratulations again to the two winners, both from the British Queen’s own country, but one living in Kansas, USA. Look them up and send them thumbs up: http://www.facebook.com/quotinggertrudestein/posts/533944753319915

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Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 97


Alice to Gertrude: “What took them so long?”

Gertrude to Alice: “What is marriage, is marriage protection or religion, is marriage renunciation or abundance, is marriage a stepping-stone or an end. What is marriage.”

GS & A Wedding

Sources: Renate Stendhal, Gertrude Stein in Words and Pictures; Gertrude Stein, Last Operas and Plays. Can you guess whose TRÈS CHIC wedding dress Alice is wearing? The first 2 successful sleuths will get my book!

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Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 95

This gallery contains 3 photos.

JAMAICA KINCAID QUOTING GERTRUDE STEIN? Should we call it a new sighting in our search for signs of presence in the Steinian post-renaissance? Is it a QUOTE? “She was thinking of her now, knowing that it would certainly become a … Continue reading

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Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 94


Another Happy Birthday, Gertrude Stein!

What is eternally 39 year-old Alice bringing Gertie for her celebration? You bet it’s something she baked, some “entertaining refreshment,” “effective,” “ecstatic,” “brilliant,” “ravishing” — in short, a “food of paradise”. To be exact: “the food of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises.” Often quoted, often repeated, sometimes verboten, always imitated, the stuff of Urban Legends: here is the recipe. Not just from her famous Cookbook  — no, here recited by Alice in 1963, in old Alice’s original, delicious-malicious, slightly trembling but still snooty cigarette voice, recited for all eternity:

on Pacifica Radio  [MP3 link] (4’46″): http://t.co/wqWfraRG

This little radio gem was sighted by friend Tom Hachtman, cartoonist extraordinaire, who also sighted G & A on a heavenly Super Bowl Sunday cheerleading team:

Enjoy a small sample appetizer of the whole cartoon here:

Then put the brownies in a super bowl and Bon Appetit, Gertrude and Alice, in Saint Tom’s, Saint Theresa’s (or some other) artistic paradise!

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Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 93

 Bye-bye 2012!


The cartoon by Rick Meyerowitz, “The Girls of Summer,” brings home the sad fact. The year-long Summer of Stein ended last year. In May 2012, the last of the big exhibitions on Stein closed. Gertrude – watch out – threw her last ball. Or was that a grenade? Did Meyerowitz see Stein launch a last retort in the controversies that had raged over her political sporting from one summer to another?

If you have a Google Alert set on Stein you know it: All quiet again on the Gertrude front.  “Le Gang Stein” (Meyerowitz) is off the field. No more media attacks and daily blog matches. Academe has locked her back into the ivory tower. Quietly the Gertrude Stein Society held a symposium at the Yale Beinecke Library, discussing Stein’s hermetic poetry in Stanzas in Meditation, debating how to teach Stein in the classroom. From political upheaval back to the normal diet of scholarship.

We may have to wait for another decade, another generation, another slew of big media events to bring Stein (and Toklas) back into the limelight.


Meanwhile, in the world of arts and media, sightings of the redisappeared have been reported. I count myself a witness. I spotted Stein in full glory in Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach. How could it be otherwise?

The landmark cultural event of the seventies that was finally revived in 2012, revealed Stein’s inspiration more clearly now than in 1976. The many repetitions of abstract, wonderfully absurd texts in Einstein on the Beach ring in today’s ear like pure Steinese, enhanced by the wonderfully repetitive score of Phil Glass, who knew what he was doing. Less obvious but as striking when you see it: an entire scene of the so-called opera is designed as an homage to Gertrude Stein. I pointed it out in my review of the piece and want to repeat it here:

“Without Stein’s inspiration, another scene in Einstein would in fact be unthinkable. The scene is called The Building. A toy-like house-front shows a woman in a “tower” window, counting with her hands. Below her window, one by one, men gather in the street, and just stand there for some length of time, not doing much of nothing, until again one by one, they leave and the scene is over. Stein: “It is a much more impressive thing to any one to see any one standing, that is not in action than acting or doing anything doing anything being a successive thing, standing not being a successive thing but being something existing. That is then the difference between narrative as it has been and narrative as it is now.” (Narration, 1935)

The congruency between the repetitive happening-not-happening onstage and the repetitive happening-not-happening in the music creates a “being something existing” that is hard to define, but is thrilling in its hypnotic presence. I felt both strained and elated coming out of the theater. Thrilled to witness that this new narrative of then is still the narrative par excellence of now.”

Other sighting are to be reported in the next blog. Stay tuned.






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Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 92

How right or how wrong does it get when Gertrude Stein appears in the movies? I had a second look at Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris  — and compared his Gertrude to her twin in Alan Rudolph’s cult classic, The Moderns:


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Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 91

Why the Witch-Hunt Against Gertrude Stein? Tikkun Magazine

It’s fascinating how the story of Stein’s war years and survival refuses to settle into a consistent story line. I wrote about Assemblyman Dov Hikind, commentator Alan Dershowith and their distortions of history in their attempt to bully the Metropolitan Museum. Dovkind, Dershowitz and others wanted the wall text of the exhibition “The Steins Collect” to follow their own version of the story – i.e. the urban legend based on the rumor-mill of Stein’s detractors. Even the White House got caught in the cauldron of hear-say and allegations against Stein, dis-inviting her on the sly from the official celebration of Jewish Heritage Month. For the details see my essay “Why the Witch-Hunt Against Gertrude Stein?” in Tikkun Magazine. Continue reading

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Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 90

There or not there? Gertrude Stein Day at the American Literature Association Conference

Me, Denny Stein and Hans Gallas

“It’s the critics who thought about form, I thought about writing.” (Gertrude Stein)

Imagine my surprise, when I asked my academic audience at the lecture panel whether they were aware of the Stein controversy, Stein the “urban legend,” the Metropolitan Museum crisis and the White House scandal. They had not heard of it. Any of it.
Academia sometimes seems like a far-away, foreign land. Where else would the speakers invited to an intellectual conference have to pay a fee in order to share their papers? I can’t come up with another example. The 400 panels in a long weekend were offered once again at the Hyatt in San Francisco by academics most of whom also had to pay for their air tickets and hotel rooms.
But anywhere, there we were, a morning panel of outliers, bringing news of the year-long raging controversy regarding Stein to Academe.
This was only the third year of Stein’s “official” existence as the object of an scholarly Society. My blog post in 2010 reported the birth of the Gertrude Stein Society and the panel I shared with Gisela Züchner-Mogall, the German-Australian artist who since then has made several appearances on my blog, the most recent one sharing one of her Stein brooches or “tender buttons” with me. Gisela was present once again, this time in the audience, and she had brought more “tender buttons” for the panelists –before heading to New York to see the last days of The Steins Collect and get Gertie’s very personal view of her ALA day.

Photo Gisela Züchner-Mogall


The morning panel this year was called “Gertrude Stein On View” and all the speakers happened to be friends, all of us local. Denny Stein, a real-live member of Stein’s family, was talking about the 30-year correspondence between her own grandmother, who was a cousin of Stein’s, and Gertrude who was fondly attached to her. Thirty years of yet unpublished letters. Denny Stein presented a Powerpoint with postcards from the edge, written during the Occupation of France, and interpreted Stein’s ways of slyly getting past the censors by writing her best Steinese, saying all was well not so well but all well.
Hans Gallas, probably the world’s most eminent collector of Stein’s first editions and memorabilia of Gertrude and Alice, shared some of his book treasures on the screen and on the desk, woven into amusing anecdotes about how Stein’s books got published. If you have never set eyes on one of the books Stein and Toklas published in the thirties in their own publishing venture, Plain Edition, you would not necessarily grasp the double and triple meanings of the word “plain.”

Hans has also made many appearances on my blog, with cross references to his gertrudeandalice blog and news about his first book, “Gertrude and Alice and Fritz and Tom,” illustrated by another friend, Tom Hachtman.
Newer books on Stein, like his or my photobiography were missing from the scanty book stalls; the once overcrowded book room at the ALA was only half there there. What could it mean? The general book crisis has reached the ivory tower of the ALA?

On the afternoon panel “Gertrude Stein In Places,” we heard about possible influences of Jazz on Stein’s language (by Andrew Vogel), about Stein’s contributions to “Children’s Literature and the Avant-Garde” (by Katie E. Strode), and challenging notes and musings about Stein’s style and rhetoric: “There are different ways of making of, of course,” presented by Sharon Kirsch from Arizona State University.
Kirsch talked about the books on the style of writing that were fashionable when Stein came of age, holding up the ancient canon of rhetoric centered on “exactness” – on “seeing what you describe.” Kirsch showed how Stein followed and bent those classic rules, for example in the Portrait of Picasso where Stein riffs on the “exactness of resemblance”:
“Exact resemblance to exact resemblance, the exact resemblance as exact as a resemblance. Exactly as resembling exactly resembling exactly in resemblance exactly a resemblance exactly and resemblance. For this is so. Because.”
And later, in 1935, Stein sums it up, “It’s the critics who thought about form, I thought about writing.”
Between and after panels, gourmet Hans Gallas took the panelists on long promenades through San Francisco, to be rewarded by superb meals at BlueStem and Il Fornaio restaurants where everyone agreed that Gertie got it right: “Books and food, food and books, both excellent things.”

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