I know the name Gertrude Stein, and understand that she is some kind of Giant of Literature.
HOWEVER: For the first time, I’ve read some actual words Stein wrote and published.
Not even gigantic hits of marijuana chased with tequila shots would make her stuff (a) understandable or (b) enjoyable.
She isn’t somebody I’d tell a new writer to read and emulate. If I actually cared about the new writer’s sanity and career, I would tell them this: read her words, then DO THE OPPOSITE.
Check out one of her famous poems, Sacred Emily, which starts like this:
Compose compose beds.
Wives of great men rest tranquil.
Come go stay philip philip.
Egg be takers.
Parts of place nuts.
Suppose twenty for cent.
It is rose in hen.
Come one day.
A firm terrible a firm terrible hindering, a firm hindering have a ray nor pin nor.
Egg in places.
Egg in few insists.
Here’s another chunk of that same great piece of lit-rah-SURE:
All the time.
A wading chest.
Do you mind.
Lizzie do you mind.
Next to barber.
Next to barber bury.
Next to barber bury china.
Next to barber bury china glass.
Next to barber china and glass.
Next to barber and china.
Next to barber and hurry.
This goes on and on. It doesn’t get any better. It just gets weirder, as Gertrude hits the bong pipe or drinks absinthe or does whatever the hell she’s doing. Here’s another section:
Next to a chance.
It was a chance to preach Saturday.
Please come to Susan.
Purpose purpose black.
Extra plain silver.
Have a reason.
Have a reason candy.
Points of places.
Which is a cream, can cream.
Ink of paper slightly mine breathes a shoulder able shine.
Put a stove put a stove hoarser.
And here’s my favorite part. She’s building to a climax or she’s losing her mind.
When a churn say suddenly when a churn say suddenly.
Poor pour percent.
There are people who write their doctoral thesis about this woman, and dedicate their careers to studying her and dissecting her work. They probably go to conferences where other professors and Stein-a-maniacs deconstruct the genius she bestowed upon the world.
I say, “No.”
This wouldn’t be considered decent, interesting babble from an attractive English major (of whatever sex you prefer) on a Saturday night after they’ve had six glasses of port from Portugal and were whispering hot literary things in your ear.
The worst rapper on the planet is better than this. At least I know what he’s talking about, it rhymes and you can dance to it.
If you are already famous and you commit this sin against humankind, simply because you can, then you’re a jerk.
If you become famous for doing this sort of thing because it’s so “unique and fresh and daring” when it’s really just silly high-brow drivel, then you should go join stand next to Snooki, because yes, freak shows are fun to watch, but they’re not really what people need or want.
Hear me now and believe me later in the week: Random nonsense that nobody can understand doesn’t make you a genius. It makes you a PRETENTIOUS NANCYPANTS.
Extra-super bonus material:
Amanda from Dead White Guys Lit wrote a glorious and educational post about Gertrude the Stein.
Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.