Gertrude Beds a Lover and It Ain’t Alice B. or Mabel Dodge?! [rated “R” for “Regrettable.”]

May 14th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

The role of a critic in any field, whether in the arts, food, fashion and so on, is a balancing act. If a critic is too “nice,” (s)he is often suspected of being in cahoots with what is being evaluated.  If a critic is too harsh, (s)he is often branded as someone who has lots of bad days and is taking it out on someone else. And if a critic is wishy-washy, readers often question the critic’s credentials and move on to the critiques of other writers.

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me an e mail mentioning a new novel which features Gertrude Stein as a central character. It was written by a respected Moroccan poet, Hassan Najmi , and has recently been translated into English. It is simply called GERTRUDE, but that is where the simplicity ends.  My response to the book after reading it is far from simple and is, in many respects, very complicated and perplexing.  The book is published by Interlink Publishing whose tagline is  “Changing the Way People Think About the World.”


How about replacing a few words making it “Changing the Way People Think About Literary Icons by Dragging Them Through the Mud?”

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In brief from Copenhagen

May 11th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

A  3-day conference at the University of Copenhagen celebrating the 100th anniversary of Gertrude Stein’s book TENDER BUTTONS ended yesterday.


I brought a few things from my collection, including the first edition seen above, to exhibit in the library and had a short presentation about them and how my GertrudeandAlice obsession began.

There were presentations about performing Stein, how new technologies can be used to consolidate and make available information about her, perspectives on GertrudeandAlice’s relationship, their salon’s significance and many more. One of the keynote speakers was Catherine Stimpson, one of the Grande Dames of Stein research, who is really not at all Grande-Damey, but instead very approachable, only too eager to share, most candidly, her expertise and genuinely  interested in learning what is going on in the realm of Stein research. She is also an incredibly engaging speaker.

Several performances, both musical and theatrical, were interspersed throughout the conference. One of the highlights was a performance of Gertrude’s  “Miss Furr and Miss Skeene,” which many consider the first literary work to use the word “gay” in its contemporary meaning. Check out the text online – there are various links.

Don't know who these ladies are, but they could be Miss Furr and Miss Skeene!

Don’t know who these ladies are, but they could be Miss Furr and Miss Skeene!

One evening featured an Alice-cookbook-inspired dinner coordinated by my friend Karen Hagen, who is the publisher of the Norwegian edition of the cookbook. The various courses were punctuated by readings from the cookbook and I had the honor and pleasure to read the “Haschish Fudge,” recipe.  A good time was had by all!

It is so encouraging to see the broad interest in GertrudeandAlice and how it continues to develop more and more.

A few additional days in wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen and then homeward.



Last night we watched the finale of the Eurovision singing competition, a mixture of the finals of American Idol, The Voice, Dancing with the Stars, and Oscar night.  The winner was from Austria – a full-bearded, drag queen named Conchita Wurst! What more can you ask for during a trip to Europe?



A Reflection on Landmark Birthdays

March 20th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

What are the landmark birthdays?  1,5,13,16,18,21,25,30,40,50,60,65,70,75,80,85,90,95,100?

Now that's a landmark !

Now that’s a landmark !

Well, today I’ve reached the one almost in the center of the top listing (does that still make it middle-age?), so officially I am now a Senior Citizen, though I know for some benefits that age has dropped to 55 and even 50.

As many of my generation have gotten older, it has become popular to  confront our ages by making  them seem less old than our parents or grandparents by creating the “is-the-new” model: 30 is-the-new 20, 40 is-the-new 30, 50 is-the-new 40, and so on.

In that case, though birthdays at any life-stage have never concerned me, as far as I can remember, I’ll make 65 the-new-45. Why not? Where was I at 45 and what was I doing?  Let me think.

To put it into perspective. Gertrude was 60 at the beginning of the U.S. lecture tour. Alice was 77 when her cookbook was published. I wasn’t born at the beginning of the U.S. lecture tour and was 5 when the cookbook was published.

Alice, you shouldn't have !

Alice, you shouldn’t have !

One of Gertrude’s quotes which has joined the ranks of greeting card quips is her take on age.  It’s a very simple set of words, but quite profound:

“We are always the same age inside.”

I’ve always liked that and especially today as I reflect on landmark birthdays of the past (at least ones I can remember), I’ll use it as today’s mantra, so that my body and mind clearly get the message, as a very fulfilled life goes on.

Thanks again Gertie.


1874: That Was the Year That Was

February 3rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

One-hundred forty years old, that’s how old Gertrude Stein will be today,  February 3rd or would have been, were many of the magical, medical, longevity miracles that are beginning to surface been around fifty years ago. But then the question is, does anyone really want or need to live that long?

I’d be 140 in 2089 , only 20 years from the 22nd Century and not sure if I’d like to be there, there!

A miniature of the house Gertrude was born in at 850 Beech Ave., Allegheny, PA.

A miniature of the house Gertrude was born in at 850 Beech Ave., Allegheny, PA.

But let’s go back to 1874,  the year of Gertrude’s birth to see what was happening.

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A poem as the new year begins

January 13th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

In the previous post, I, as Alice, wrote a spoof of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”  Now, as an antidote to that disrespectful take on the All-American holiday classic, I’ve written a “legitimate” poem inspired by a press photo that has long fascinated me of Alice B. Toklas, Janet Flanner and the Picasso portrait.

In 1955, there was a major Picasso retrospective in Paris.  Among the works shown was his 1906 portrait of Gertrude Stein, which had been shipped to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York per her will, but was returned to Paris for the exhibition.  For Alice to see the portrait again must have been an emotional experience.

My poem alludes both to the famous Picasso quote after someone, seeing the finished painting, had said to him that the portrait looked nothing like Gertrude, as well as Alice’s conversion to Catholicism in 1957. (And Janet and Alice’s love of their cigarettes!)

Janet Flanner was a longtime friend of GertrudeandAlice and would regularly include items about them in her Letter from Paris in The New Yorker magazine writing under the name “Genêt.”


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‘Twas the Week After Christmas: A Faux Poem by Alice

December 31st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink


Because of the number of GertrudeandAlice anniversaries happening in 2014 (see previous post) , I thought it would be fun to speculate that hidden in the bottom of one of the archive boxes at Yale, there was a journal with a number of pieces that Alice had written, unbeknownst to Gertrude. Among them was Alice’s take on the Clement Moore Christmas standard in which she anticipates the activities of the new year 1934.


[As with many of Gertrude’s notebooks in the Yale collection, Alice’s notebook also contains marginalia which is noted following the poem.]

‘Twas the week after Christmas, when all through the rue

There was so much excitement and so much to do.

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Arosing for the Occasion: Holiday Wishes from GertrudeandAlice

December 17th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink


“Lo, how a rose, a rose, a rose, a rose e’r blooming,” Gertrude’s  take on the 16th century Christmas hymn.  Or in its original German: “Es ist ein Ros, ein Ros, ein Ros, ein Ros entsprungen.”

220px-Speyerer_Gesangbuch_Es_ist_ein_Ros_entsprungenAs another year ends, these steinized lyrics usher in the 14th year of the 21st century as GertrudeandAlice and Basket II pose with  an oversized rose sculpture created by the German artist Isa Genzken. (Genzken, coincidentally, currently has a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.)


And what is in the boxes? Embellishments for the sensible Balmain suits, a bedazzled collar  for Basket or maybe the latest cooking gadget for Alice’s kitchen?

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Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose…at 100 !

August 29th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The question often is “How many roses are there in “it?”  The “it” being Gertrude Stein’s most famous phrase about the proverbial bloom so popular on Mother’s Day, weddings, the Bachelorette,  or just when you need to convince that special someone that you spoke out of place and need a full-bodied tasty wine and wonderful Italian dinner and a crystal vase for the long-stemmed beauties that you are holding penitently!

To be precise,  there are four “roses” in it (and no “a” at the beginning,) as opposed to more than four saints in Four Saints in Three Acts, which, to digress for a moment, was a super-hit and crowd favorite in it’s most recent incarnation as Gertrude Stein’s SAINTS  at the just ended New York International Fringe Festival. (See previous post.)

St. Therese of the Roses: Roses and Saints, full-circle

St. Therese of the Roses: Roses and Saints, full-circle

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“Oh, when the SAINTS….!”

July 16th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The year was 1934. FDR was in the second year of his first term as President.  The top movie of the year was “It Happened One Night” with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. And the theater and opera world were agog about FOUR SAINTS IN THREE ACTS!

The agogism wasn’t because the opera’s title was a lie, as there were more than four saints and more than three acts in the piece. Neither was the music by a not too well-known composer, Virgil Thomson,  particularly revolutionary.  Yes, it had an all-black cast, a first for an opera or theater work on Broadway (this was pre-Porgy and Bess), but what raised eyebrows and caused agogamania was the libretto by Gertrude Stein, that little read, but very much in the public eye, personality and transplanted American from “artsy-fartsy Paris!”

a few of the original Four Saints, standing, not marching, at this point

a few of the original Four Saints, standing, not marching, at this point

Why with lyrics from one of its most well-known refrains, why wouldn’t there be Steinmania across America?

“Pigeons on the grass alas.
  Pigeons on the grass alas.
  Short longer grass short longer longer shorter yellow grass. Pigeons


large pigeons on the shorter longer yellow grass alas pigeons on the
  If they were not pigeons what were they.”

When Gertrude’s editor for the book version of the opera, Saxe Commins at Random House, raised questions about the libretto, she turned to him, stared him in the eyes and said “My dear, you simply don’t understand!”

Now, almost 80 years later, an exciting, new version of  FOUR SAINTS, Gertrude Stein SAINTS!,  comes to New York in a few weeks to the La MaMa Theatre, the  historic off-off Broadway theater (it’s where the musical HAIR was created and performed in 1968), as part of this year’s New York International Fringe Festival.

These SAINTS! are marching in to the beat of a different drummer in more ways than one!

"Oh Lord I want to be in that number...!"

“Oh Lord I want to be in that number…!”

Here’s a bit of history and background:

“Our initial investigation into Stein’s work began with an all-male production of Four Saints in Three Acts at Carnegie Mellon University in February of 2013. Stein’s libretto offers no plot, no characters, and no conflict; it is a non-narrative text that can best be described as linguistic gymnastics.  In all this absence, anything becomes possible and what we have discovered is a Theatre of Joy. The response to the original production was overwhelmingly positive and became an invitation for more. We have since added an all-female Saints and Singing, also featuring an original musical score inspired by American music created by insanely talented performers. The two works are combined to create Gertrude Stein SAINTS!, powerhouse that explores gender, a theatre that replaces conflict with joy, and America.

Under the guidance of director Michelle Sutherland, this production has also tapped in to the 21st century’s answer to the patronage of the Medicis or the generosity of the Rockefellers, Guggenheims, or Fords, by raising funds through The goal of the 21 day campaign is $9,000, of which more than two-thirds has been pledged and there is one week to go!

Lorenzo de Medici looking like a saint. Right?!

Lorenzo de Medici looking like a saint. Right?!

Be a part of this! Haven’t you always wanted to be a Medici or Rockefeller? And if you’re in or near New York City next month, get your tickets soon.

If they were not pigeons, what were they? My dear,  SAINTS!, of course! Now you understand!


The Long Hot Summer…

July 2nd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Sorry about the lack of GertrudeandAliciana, but something will hit this page soon.

In the meantime, enjoy these posters which have nothing to do with GertrudeandAlice.






Till soon, your friend in GertrudeandAlice!


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