Wednesday, October 24, 2007


My parents were never rich --my father worked for the Department of Agriculture-- but we did, at one time, have a maid. Her name was Gertie. Which is really only of passing interest (the primary purpose of this admission being to plant the seed in your mind that my having clambered to the heights of whatever heights I've clambered to is made all the more noteworthy by my humble beginnings), since the Gertrude I really want to write about is Gertrude Stein.

This would, of course, be her.

I am, at a friend's suggestion, reading "Two Lives" by Janet Malcolm--a biography of G. Stein and (Alice) B. Toklas. It's interesting enough to drag me away from "Tree of Smoke," (Denis Johnson) which is really interesting. So that says something.

And, under the category of You-Learn-Something-New-Every-Day, I discovered, while reading the book, that "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas" was actually written by G. Stein. Which is disintuitive, to say the least, given the title.
You didn't know that? That's pathetic, for someone who likes to flash around pretentious literary references like Elvis Presley did hundred dollar bills.
No. I didn't. I don't think I've ever clapped eyes on anything by Gertrude Stein. And it is sort of pathetic. Shouldn't they have made me read this stuff in college? Or at least strongly suggested? But hey, everybody's got holes. Did I tell you my first sailboat was named Moby Duck?
You're not going to do that whole Rat slash Mole/Wind in the Willows/Messing around in boats thing now, are you?
I was going to, until you waxed snippy.
Sorry. Why don't you tell your Gertrude Stein story.
Apology accepted. I remember inviting my friend Elena to my studio for a first-viewing of my painting of her called "Elena in the Morning" and noticing that she didn't seem to like it. "What's wrong?" I asked (knowing that she couldn't be objecting to the nipple treatment, which was, if I do say so myself, fantastic).

"It doesn't look like me," she said.

Now this, dear reader, is just what Gertrude Stein said to Picasso after seeing his portrait of her. Picasso replied: "It will."

So I said to Elena, "It will."
Happy now?
Little bit. I think I'm going to have to read "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas."
They were lesbians.
No way. Really?


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