Alice B. Toklas

Paris

Paris

To be clear, I love all books, which must be understood before you read my next sentence:

Over the past few years, my enjoyment of fiction has been overtaken by my greater enthusiasm for non-fiction.  This may be a bold statement, to be sure, but if you ever read, “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas,” written by none other than Gertrude Stein, you may agree that my non-fiction preference has a certain appeal.

I have reached the 10% mark given by the Kindle App, and already I sense that I’ve been transported to the Paris of the early 1900’s.  I am in the home of Gertrude Stein for an evening meal.  The Picassos have not made their entrance, which is unusual given Pablo’s obsession for punctuality.  It is not until we have finished the first course that we hear the sound of a bell.

“Pablo and Fernande as everybody called them at that time walked in. He, small, quick moving but not restless, his eyes having a strange faculty of opening wide and drinking in what he wished to see.  He had the isolation and movement of the head of a bull-fighter and at the head of their procession.  Fernande was a tall beautiful woman with a wonderful big hat and a very evidently new dress, they were both very fussed.” Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

The evening is filled with scintillating discussions and brilliant personalities.  I see it all through Alice’s eyes, experiencing her amazement as the procession of artists come through the door.

“They were always there all sizes and shapes, all degrees of wealth and poverty, some very charming, some simply rough and every now and then a very beautiful young peasant.” Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

On a Paris Bridge

On a Paris Bridge

Gertrude Stein has a way of prompting controversy.  Some would say that this book was merely a venue to highlight her personal “genius,” while others would consider it a charming view of the Parisian bohemian scene.   What I appreciate most is that Gertrude Stein has given me an insight into a community that changed the art world.

“A masterpiece… may be unwelcome but it is never dull.” Gertrude Stein

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

9 thoughts on “Alice B. Toklas

  1. Just read the article you included on Gertrude Stein and the references to Earnest Hemingway and several others. The term, Lost Generation, of course, refers to the time and soldiers after the horrific war of 1914-1918. Your grandparents lived through that time and were married in 1925. A very dear friend, Carl Swanson, a Swede. served in “the trenches” and saw horrific things but was fortunate to return. He worked for my father for a short time early in the twenties. I think it was because my father could understand some Swedish. Tragically, he came back with a wound on his leg that never healed; his leg was amputated in his later life because it would not heal even after multiple treatments. He became a lifelong friend—the father of your Aunt Sunbeam’s husband, Don Swanson,

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    • Thank you for that background history that adds depth to this conversation. I think that you would enjoy this autobiography, which of course, is more like a biography. Alice considered Gertrude to be a genius, but from what I’ve been reading, Alice was a strong influence in Gertrude’s life. When you read this book, you really embark on a course on art history. Every name that is mentioned can be found in Wikipedea. More to come.

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  2. Paris! It was a place where creativity, wisdom and innovation seemed to blossom in abundance, specially in the time of Gertrude Stein and others. I had not met the subject of your post; thank you for her introduction. I really like your photos, I notice the shadow of the bike; a mode of travel that I connect with Paris.

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    • I took this bridge photo by accident. I just happened to capture the biker when I snapped the picture. Bikes are going to increase in popularity, especially in city centers. They are portable and there are no worries about finding an expensive parking stall.

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