“I don’t care to say whether I’m greater than Shakespeare, and he’s dead and can’t say whether he’s greater than I am. Time will tell.” (Lecture at Wesleyan University, 1935)
What’s all the fuss about?
When Stein went on her lecture tour, 75 years ago, she was so famous in America, so lionized by the press, that the proverbial man in the street recognized her. People were puzzled and amused and they all quoted her. Today, if you put a Google Alert on Gertrude Stein, they still quote her. From pop divas to politicians, from tennis stars to outliers. Everyone is quoting her, every day of the year, and Google is there to keep track.
If she is relevant to droves of people who never read her, how much more so would she be if one knew what the fuss was all about. It’s certainly not just the one-liners and aphorisms and pronouncements about her genius. The woman has enough presence to outlast centuries. If you would see her today in this leopard hat and army coat, sitting in one of the notorious Paris cafés, La Coupole or Le Dôme, she would still be the center of attention, the essence of cool. Her presence (of mind), so utterly unencumbered by the demands of femininity would still be striking. And intriguing. How did she do it? How did she get this way? That’s part of what it’s all about.