Friday, April 07, 2006

stein is mine

It's hard to excerpt Gertrude Stein and feel like her insidious force is preserved: the weight of these stories, at least for me, rests on their repetition and reincorporation of linguistic patterns (particular epithets and phrases). Her writing is flatly declarative, but the cumulative effect is very different from reportage. In this passage (near the beginning of "Melanctha," the longest of the Three Lives), we're introduced to certain things about Melanctha, things that remain static over the course of the story but play out in very particular ways.

Melanctha Herbert had not made her life all simple like Rose Johnson. Melanctha had not found it easy with herself to make her wants and what she had, agree.
Melanctha Herbert was always losing what she had in wanting all the things she saw. Melanctha was always being left when she was not leaving others.
Melanctha Herbert always loved too hard and much too often. She was always full with mystery and subtle movements and denials and vague distrusts and complicated disillusions. Then Melanctha would be sudden and impulsive and unbounded in some faith, and then she would suffer and be strong in her repression.
Melanctha Herbert was always seeking rest and quiet, and always she could only find new ways to be in trouble.

The persistence of "always" - poor Melanctha.

1 comment:

Dr. Lisa said...

Thanks for this. Stein's appeal had always escaped me, so this helps me understand what she's getting at and why people still discuss her work.