A few months ago Gertrude Stein was at a Lexington, Kentucky, bookstore, promoting her latest. I learned this by overhearing one sorority sweetheart shouting to another on campus: “It was fab seeing her in person! I mean, you know, Gertrude Stein!”

It was Gloria Steinem at the bookstore, but what other American writer, forty-seven years dead, can claim a place in the sparse learning of the intrepidly illiterate? Gertrude Stein is firmly wedged in the American mind, together with Alice Babette Toklas. Her salon at 27 rue de Fleurus (between the Boulevard Raspail and the Luxembourg Gardens) is an echo of the eighteenth century. There, in a room as famous as any in our time, hung with Picassos, Cézannes, Matisses, and Derains, one might encounter Hemingway, Lipchitz, or Sherwood Anderson. Even Ezra Pound (he broke a chair, and was never invited again).

She is a vivid figure...

 

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