“Anyone who reads at all diversely during these bizarre 1920s cannot escape the conclusion that a number of crazy men and women are writing stuff which remarkably passes for important composition among certain persons who should know better.

Stuart P. Sherman, however, refused to be numbered among those who stand in awe and admiration of one of the most eminent of the idiots, Gertrude Stein. He reviews her Geography and Plays in the August 11 issue of the Literary Review of the New York Evening Post and arrives at the conviction that it is a marvellous and painstaking achievement in setting down approximately 80,000 words which mean nothing at all.”

James Thurber


Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas and their poodle, Basket. France, 1944. Photograph by Carl Mydans. It is said that Stein and Toklas were serious poodle people. Over the years they had three; Basket, Basket I and Basket II. It would seem, Basket is the comeliest of the trio, no?




~ by eaesthete on 05/11/10.

7 Responses to “Overheard”

  1. It would seem, Basket is the comeliest of the trio, no?

    Oh mon dieu, oui! It is a great photograph.

  2. I tried to read Stein’s The Making of Americans. I liked the premise. Rather like the symbolic whole of America perched on The Bridge of the San Luis Rey. The prose crumpled my brain, frustrated me by its lack of flow and confounded me by its dead end metaphors. A rose is a rose is a rose is one thing but a gazillion pages of this stuff will make you a nutcake. And, yes, Basket is the one I am drawn to here. He/she seems to know a dog is a dog is a dog.

    • Home,

      I’m currently reading “Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice” by Janet Malcolm where The Making of Americans is referred to as a masterwork of “magisterial disorder,” so your thoughts of “nutcake” are perfectly apt.

      I’ve always been of the opinion that Stein’s life, friends, soirees, travels, and exploits were infinitely superior to her writings.

      That Basket is a cutie!

  3. Basket does seem to be a bit bored by it all, doesn’t he? One has to wonder what he is thinking. I’ve always imagined that most dogs would be just as content to live out their lives lying in the grass – but then again, sometimes – so would I. :)

  4. Can’t wait to read “Two lives: Gertrude and Alice”….

  5. There seems to be an uptick in criticism about Stein’s writing of late. This isn’t the first time I’ve read what an over-rated person of letters she was. While I adore the writings of a number of ex pats, including Zelda Fitzgerald who was under valued and/or ignored thanks to Scott, I never read Stein. Doesn’t sound like I ever will now.


    May I gently recommend that you NEVER make a determination like that based on the opinions of others. Each has a voice and aesthetic of their own which makes us all unique. I do believe, too, that historic perspective ebbs and flows, bringing renown sometimes to the undiscovered, while illuminating the marginal. In short, all of it is intensely personal.

  6. This is a dark time for the city I live in, but your graceful posts lift my heart.

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