Top positive review
5 people found this helpful
Anecdote - meander - anecdote - digression
on 21 January 2013
A book I loved and, at times, hated a little. That might be more an assessment of how Stein comes across. Written by Stein but from the point of view of the woman who shared her life in Paris it is, as is the nature of autobiography, self-obsessed. The tone is that of a woman leaning over a fence catching up with a neighbour and rattling off a long list of anecdotes of (famous) friends and associates, interrupted only by herself and her meanderings into other anecdotes from the past with other friends and some not so. Doesn't sound entertaining, does it?
But of course this is Stein and despite the endless boasting of what a genius and inspiration she is to 'the young writers' there is much to enjoy here. A portrait of the joys and rivalries of the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson (and many, many more, some lost to obscurity) before and after the Great War, it hits its stride when mentioning the personal detail of Stein and her partner's domestic set-up, as well as their involvement in relief work from 1916-18. Stein likely was an original. She eschewed much punctuation as well as the emotion behind words and in doing this did influence elements of modern American writing. Her conceit as the light-giver in her celebrated literary and artistic salons shows geniuses and lesser mortals all batting around her like moths. Her arrogance has her sitting on a podium between Jesus and Shakespeare and, if she did not find you interesting, she would not shy away from revealing it. Despite all this, this is an enjoyable read. It is not a masterpiece but has intrinsic value as a portrait of an inspirational time and place.