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

New Years with Ford Madox Ford

A Paris Rose

Gertrude Stein came up with the expression:The Lost Generation, after she encountered a young car attendant who failed to impress her with his mechanic skills. The garage owner confided  that young men were easy to train, compared with those in their mid-twenties to thirties who had served in WWI.  He called them the lost generation – une génération perdue.  Ernest Hemingway popularized the term in his novel “The Sun Also Rises” and gives credit to Gertrude Stein.  It came to refer to a cohort that came of age during WWI and included distinguished artists such as Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, T.S. Eliot, John Dos Passos, Waldo Pierce, Isadora Duncan, Alan Seeger, Erich Maria Remarque and Ford Madox Ford.

Born in 1873, Ford Madox Ford was a prominent English novelist and editor. At the start of WWI, he worked with the British War Propaganda Bureau, writing two propaganda books.  On July 30, 1915, at the age of 41, he joined the Welch Regiment and was sent to France.  This decision marked the end of his cooperation with the British propaganda machine and changed the direction of his literary endeavours.

As I look forward to a new year, I am inspired by Ford Madox Ford.  When confronted with the reality of conflict, he chose a different path – the truth.  May we remember his courage as we move forward… Continue reading