So I’m reading The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, which was written by Gertrude Stein at some point. It’s that kind of book. I think that I like it, but I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because it makes everyone from the early 20th century look so much more human. All those artists and writers having children, having sex, being normal people with shitty problems and really annoying characteristics. Stein’s argument with Bertrand Russell in England is probably one of the best altercations that I’ve ever read.
There are a couple sections that I wanted to post. Maybe it can save some people from having to read the book while still getting something out of it. That’s the purpose of the internet, I think.
The germans were getting nearer and nearer Paris and the last day Gertrude Stein could not leave her room, she sat and mourned. She loved Paris, she thought neither of manuscripts nor of pictures, she thought only of Paris ans she was desolate. I came up to her room, I called out, it is alright Paris is saved, the germans are in retreat. She turned away and said, don’t tell me these things. But it’s true, I said, it is true. And then we wept together (Stein 149).
I really like that Stein’s explaining a lot in a few words. She’s telling how she felt, how she heard the words, how Toklas and her relationship worked, and her love of Paris all in one short paragraph. Sometimes it’s a chore to read Stein. This isn’t one of those times.
I remember hearing a french nurse once say and the only thing she did say of the front was, c’est un paysage passionant, an absorbing landscape. And that was what it was as we saw it (Stein 187).
There’s something more to this than what we’re being given, and I’m not sure what it is. The absorbing landscape is pretty damn brilliant: it takes in images, it reallocates language, men are eaten by it. It works on a lot of levels. It kind of pairs up nicely with an idea, or literary term, that I’ve been playing around with: the end of the world. I think it works as a kind of fear-locus in literature, but that’s really as far as I’ve taken it. It does the same thing: absorbs, darkens, finishes. I don’t know. If Hemingway had ennui, then I think that I have the end of the world.
I’m really pleased to say that I have a project/blog post coming up with Kat Green. She actually contacted me through this blog, and her art’s pretty cool, so I’m probably going to be posting some of that in the next couple days.
P.S.: I am split about Greil Marcus as a writer.