Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose

Current book: The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Pages read: 69-139

There isn't very much plot forthcoming; we meet lots of artists and their friends and wives, and we follow Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas around Paris and the Continent, but that's mostly the gist of it. Oddly, it's not boring or tedious, but rather glamorous and entertaining. The overarching message seems to be that art is important and worthwhile, and there is a great deal of beauty in the everyday. I can get behind that.

The voice experiment that Gertrude Stein is performing is particularly interesting when she's speaking about herself in Alice's voice. She manages to sound both arrogant and ridiculous and as though she's mocking herself for being arrogant and ridiculous as the same time. These factors combine to transform her commentary about herself into incisive self-examination. It's impressively clever, I have to admit.
"She [Gertrude Stein] always says she dislikes the abnormal, it is so obvious. She says the normal is so much more simply complicated and interesting." (83)
Sounds obnoxious and arrogant, doesn't it? But when it's written about as though her friend is admiring her for it, but we, the audience, know she's writing in the voice of her friend, it sounds to me like she's poking gentle fun at her friend's admiration of her and of her own habits. I don't know; that could be giving her undue credit, but it's the impression I get again and again.

You'll note the comma splice in the above quote. Gertrude loves them, and, in fact, run-on sentences of all kinds. Apparently she had a thing against commas. She also doesn't capitalize nationalities (i.e. German is written german, and the like). Normally, I would grumble snarkily about this kind of behavior, but I'm still somehow charmed by the Continental artsy atmosphere of the whole thing. Also, I want a croissant.

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