Fiction Daily.
A blog on writing, writers and why we read. Posted most mornings by Marion Blackburn.
Arise, a rose
A rambling (rose) look at Gertrude Stein, Part Four

At last, we come to the famous sentence:

Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.

It appears in 1913's Sacred Emily, but to unlock its meaning we turn to Gertrude Stein's 1914 collection, Tender Buttons.
This fascinating book of prose poems provides a day to understanding Stein (and, quite possibly, the Talking Heads).

This collection has
three sections: Objects, Food, Rooms.

Words become boxes, says William Gass in his essay on Stein, The Geography of the Sentence.

If we are to understand writing, we must unwrap these boxes of meaning. The repetition of Stein's writing aims to force us to examine words, not once, but many times.

In that way, we can also find the "roots" of meanings.

In Objects, we have this "Box."

Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle.

Gass explains that "kindness" can lead to the red of a blush, and later even shame and embarrassment.

If we "research," we "recircle," in a way. "Kind" means a "nature," and becomes a "state" when we add "-ness."

Her words refer to themselves in this way, making us aware that the author is watching us, hoping we'll catch on.
2008-01-04 12:35:07 GMT
Comments (3 total)
Fascinating the way Stein's mind worked ... and also Gass' that he could see what she was doing and extract so much meaning and clarity from what appears to be the workings of a mad mind.

Another value to your Stein series is that it shows us how other "difficult" writers can be similarly demystified and appreciated, partly through a careful study of their works and also through an examination of the world around them ... how simultaneous revolutions in other areas affect writers: art = Stein, language = Shakespeare, society = Faulkner, etc.
2008-01-04 14:24:01 GMT
I give all credit to William Gass and recommend his essays most highly. Though hardly anyone keeps a book of literary criticism on their kitchen table, his book, The World Within the Word, would be just the one if they did.
I would also add that having read that single sentence repeatedly, I discovered at last what Stein may have meant by "painful cattle."
"Oww ... cow." -- MB
2008-01-04 20:02:12 GMT
FYI for everyone: "World Within the Word" is still in print! (First edition was 1976? How many books of literary criticism ever see the light of day, much less are still in print more than 30 years later?) Amazon offers it, in paperback, for $20 new or used starting at $4.

Happy reading!
2008-01-05 23:10:48 GMT
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