Wednesday, June 24, 2009

We'll always have Paris.

Current book: The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Pages read: 140-253 (end)

Well, the end was more of the same, only lots of it happened during World War I. Aside from the inevitable dissolution of the salons during the war, it was very similar to the rest of the book, except that instead of living in Paris, they were living in the French countryside or in Spain. The close of the story consists of Gertrude Stein's success in publication and her urging Toklas to write her autobiography. Convinced that Toklas never will, then, Gertrude Stein commences to write it for her, which results in the book that the reader has just finished. (Change tense enough for you in there? I tried to keep it even, but I'm not sure it was possible. Oh, whatever. You didn't even notice.)

Despite its smugness and elitism, I still like it. It was just so lovely to be along for the ride with Matisse and Picasso and the Parisian art scene that I couldn't help myself. It doesn't make me like Tender Buttons or any of Stein's other post-modernist ridiculousness, but it makes me like her a lot more. I really appreciate the message that art and literature are worthy not because they must have deep messages, but because they impart beauty to the world. Stein often says in the book that sentences are worth considering in themselves simply because their structure can be complex and beautiful. I like that. I'm not sure I like some of the insane prose that came out of it, but as a concept, it's very attractive.

Also, in the middle of this last part, Stein and Toklas became friends with Ernest Hemingway and helped him along as he wrote In Our Time, which is the next book on the list. That was kind of a weird coincidence. Also, I was surprised at how much they liked him and his writing, what with all the misogyny.

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