Books: Stem's Way

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(See front cover)

I don't like the family Stein, There is Gert, there is Ed, there is Ein; Cert's poems are bunk, Ed's statues are punk, And nobody understands Ein.

Many a writer appears on the literary horizon like a cloud no bigger than a man's hand, swells quickly to mistily gigantic proportions and—vanishes like a mist. Gertrude Stein is no such writer. Like a huge squat mountain on a distant border of the literary kingdom, obscured not only by the cloudy procession of more Aprilly authors but by the self-induced fog that hangs around her close-cropped top, she has loomed from afar over the hinterland of letters, a sphinxlike, monolithic mass. Twenty years she has squatted there; eyes accustomed to the landscape are beginning to recognize something portentous in her massive outline. By the time-honored process of getting older Gertrude Stein, though she remains as mysterious as ever, has made herself a background place in the literary panorama.

Her ponderous slopes have been visited by no picnic-parties; the journey is too far afield for weekday trippers; but some few fellow-writers have ventured into her shade and have returned with enthusiastic and grateful tales. Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, Francis Scott Fitzgerald, Carl Van Vechten, supposedly sensible and certainly popular authors, have sat admiringly at her feet. When Hemingway was 23, just married, and learning to write in Paris, he went to Gertrude Stein with a letter of introduction from Sherwood Anderson. He sat, listened, looked at her "with passionately interested" eyes, returned again & again. She read and criticized everything he had written, be- came godmother of his first child. Author Anderson went to see her. She seemed to him "an American woman of the old sort, one who cares for the handmade goodies and scorns the factory-made foods, and in her own great kitchen she is making something with her materials, something sweet to the tongue and fragrant to the nostrils."

Plain readers are not apt to go to Gertrude Stein, with or without introduction. Mahomets in their own right, they insist that Mountain Stein should come to them. And now at last the mountain has come. At one long-deferred bound she has moved from the legendary borders of literature into the very marketplace, to face in person a large audience of men-in-the-street.

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