Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas were major cultural figures in 1920s Paris, photographed by Man Ray and Cecil Beaton, painted by Picasso, and written about by Hemingway. Alice was convinced from her first meeting with Gertrude that she was in the presence of genius, and dedicated herself to seeing Gertrude get the recognition that genius deserved. From letters, memoirs, and their published writings, the author has reconstructed the story of their lives for this biography.
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"Twentieth century literature is Gertrude Stein". Or at least so thought Gertrude Stein, a sentiment she shared with few others, except of course Alice B Toklas. Gertrude and Alice met in 1907 in Paris and famously shared their lives from that day forth, souls in perfect complement; two magnificently eccentric and idiosyncratic women who became a legendary entity, photographed by Man Ray and Cecil Beaton, painted and fêted by Picasso and visited by writers such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Eliot. Theirs is a fascinating story, and they have found a wonderful and oddly sympathetic chronicler in Diana Souhami, whose book The Trials of Radclyffe Hall met with critical acclaim, and who proves the perfect counterfoil to the "Steins". Her own touch of genius is to barely consider Gertrude's grand oeuvre, sparing the rod to an already spoilt child and freeing her readership from the unpalatable fare she generally served up (by contrast, Alice was a dedicated and talented cook).
Literary success came late to Stein--she was 57 when The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas was published-- but like Edith Sitwell she became, to use a Leavis phrase, more a figure in the history of publicity, and the curious thing is that one senses that behind the rhetoric, she knew it. After her death in 1946, Alice became the classic devoted author's widow, finally dying just short of her 90th birthday. She was buried with Gertrude in Père Lachaise cemetery, though her inscription is on the back of the tombstone, as ever behind her lover. Souhami's two lives, refreshingly stripped of biographical dead wood, positively crackle with high-powered gossip and bristle with bitchy anecdotes, though her laconic touch is never asleep to the touching cadences as well as the wonderful absurdities. As a writer, a "literary cubist", who once tried to give up nouns, Stein is more to be admired than respected. As a life force, a mover and shaker, and as a partner for Alice, she was massively successful. Their life together, a third life so to speak, was their greatest creation, and it's done justice by the talented Souhami's glorious account. Gertrude and Alice would have hated it. --David VincentReview:
'A brilliant and witty chronicle of one of the happiest marriages in modern literary history. Not only star-studded but light-filled.' --John Richardson, author of 'A Life of Picasso'
'Perfect, deadpan, brief and witty' --The Independent
'Wonderfully entertaining ... not many biographies can make you laugh out loud. A real treat' --Time Out
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Book Description United Kingdom: Pandora Pr, 1992. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. Language: eng Language: eng. Bookseller Inventory # ABE-12202876013
Book Description Pandora Pr, 1992. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0044408331
Book Description Pandora, London, 1991. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. 12mo - over 6¾ - 7¾" tall. This is a New and Unread copy of the first edition (1st printing). Book. Bookseller Inventory # 039274
Book Description Pandora, London, 1991. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. 12mo - over 6¾ - 7¾" tall. This is a New and Unread Advance copy of the first edition (1st printing). Publisher's promo material laid in. There is a sticker (removable) on the front cover stating "Advance Copy: To be published in the US in February, 1992. Book. Bookseller Inventory # 036334
Book Description Jan 01, 1992. Book Condition: New. Hardcover in dust jacket. New, unused copy. Never opened. Has faint signs of shelf-wear, but no marks or flaws. Bookseller Inventory # 0714A100166
Book Description Pandora Pr, 1992. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110044408331