Alice B. Toklas
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
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