Reading Like a Writer: Gertrude Stein

May 28, 2010 — Leave a comment

Four Lectures by Gertrude Stein

University of Chicago Press (1935/1969)

I just bought this beautiful book in its sassy sturdy slipcover on eBay. I was going to actually read it before I wrote about it here, but two pages in and I can’t help but start quoting…

on literature

…most literature is narrative that is in one way or in another way the telling of how anybody how everybody does anything and everything. (2)

on america

When they asked me when I came back to America do you find America changed I said no neither America nor Americans after all when you say changed how could they change what after all could they change to, and when you ask that of course there is no answer. (3)

on the english language in america vs. england

It is going to be very interesting and it is very interesting and it has been very interesting to see how two nations having the same words all the same grammatical constructions have come to be telling things that have nothing whatever in common.

…Always before the language of each nation who had a narrative to make a story to tell a life to express a thing to say did it with a language that had gradually become a language that was made gradually by them to say what they had to say.

…the story must be told will be told can be told but they will tell this story they tell this story using the exactly same words that were made to tell an entirely different story and the way it is being done the pressure being put upon the same words to make them move in an entirely different way is most exciting, it excites us who use them. (7)

Oh that slip-slidy language! Those brilliant theoretical ideas put in everyday words! She’s talking about deconstruction and differance when Derrida himself is a four-year-old.

There will be much more to say about this…

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