Post # 12. This is a sketch by Djuna Barnes:
Gertrude Stein was a “clinical case of megalomania” (Tristan Tzara). A “dictator of art” (Man Ray). Her writing was a “cold suet-roll of reptilian length…all fat without nerve” (French critic Marcel Brion); a “sausage, by-the-yard-variety” (Wyndham Lewis). Stein was controversial from day one.
As we are dealing right now with the “Rose” controversy (see previous post), I will digress a bit from my main topics — my struggle to embrace my muse, and her famous American lecture tour, 75 years ago. As for the latter, here is a charming account of the tour on Hans Gallas’s website that you can follow along in rhymes and have fun: http://gertrudeandalice.com/blog/.
I can’t tell you how often I felt discouraged in my own writing by controversy, misunderstanding or non-response to a book or article or multimedia work — and then just as often my thoughts would go to Gertrude, to the much greater silence, scorn and ridicule she had to suffer with almost everything she wrote, until she was 59 and had her first success… I took courage from her, all the time wondering how she managed to keep up the conviction and self-belief and go on writing.
“In my generation I am the only one.” “I am a genius.” “I don’t care to say whether I am greater than Shakespeare, and he’s dead and can’t say whether he’s greater than I am. Time will tell.”
How did she do it?
I am proud to say that when I composed my photobiography, sifting through her work, reading and reading again, I found many answers to this question. Almost as if my Muse was speaking to me… Answers in her photographs as well as in her writing. I will share a few of them with you as I go along. But here, right off the bat, is one of them. A most evident, powerful one, in one single word: Alice.