In his essay, Gertrude Stein and the Geography of the Sentence, William Gass places her on a dividing line between opposites.
Stein (1874-1946) came into young adulthood as a new century began. Literature was taking more chances, with novels becoming more acceptable and women writers beginning to find their pens and voices.
Gass suggests that for young Stein, a shift in traditional views was gaining steam ... literally, as the industrial age was shaking up the world.
The cubists were beginning to see this fragmentation and so was young Stein. The present is like a painting, without before or after.
In her first writing, she expressed that during any present moment, anything -- word, season, feeling -- could become something else:
I begin to see how I can quiver and not quiver at like and alike.
A great deal can be felt so.
The present is the only place we are alive, Gass suggests, and though the earth is round, our experience of the present is flat. It is a series of breath after breath, a repetitive action, a beginning and rebeginning, over and over again.
AHEAD: A breath of rose