Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 4

Post # 4, day 4.
This is about how writing is written (How Writing is Written – one of the 600 titles of Stein’s oeuvre) and how writing is read.

Do you remember what you felt and thought when you first heard the line “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”? How old were you? Where were you when the first rose of modernism was handed to you? I was a school girl in Germany, 15 or 16 years old. I was absolutely clueless why my older friends all seemed delighted, amused, intellectually impressed with this rose. What did it mean? Why didn’t I “get” it? I felt stupid but also fascinated by the riddle. Intrigued by the sound of it. One could say I caught a perfume at the same time as the sting of a thorn. Nobody in my circle ever mentioned that Stein was a lesbian, but I saw the famous photographs by Man Ray, the cool, stern profile of an emperor who clearly looked like s/he meant what s/he said. She also said that “commas hold your coat for you” and this I understood. This one I got. I felt I had to read Gertrude Stein. Something “simple”: her stories about three women, “Three Lives”. Looking back today I am amazed that I found it impossible. I did not understand what she was doing with her strangely dressed sentences and on and on repetitions. She vexed me and bored me because I didn’t find an entry. She remained the proverbial closed book, but a book hiding the secret of a rose…
These paradoxical feelings – a powerful attraction and vexation – stayed with me even when I recognized that she had been my first Muse and when my wrestling with this Muse became an adventure and brought me the first results.
Stay tuned…

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