Anna led an arduous and troubled life.
Anna managed the whole little house for Miss Mathilda. [...] This one
little house was always very full with Miss Mathilda, an under servant,
stray dogs and cats and Anna's voice that scolded, managed, grumbled all
"Sallie! can't I leave you alone a minute but you must run to the door
to see the butcher boy come down the street and there is Miss Mathilda
calling for her shoes. Can I do everything while you go around always
thinking about nothing at all? If I ain't after you every minute you
would be forgetting all the time, and I take all this pains, and when
you come to me you was as ragged as a buzzard and as dirty as a dog. Go
and find Miss Mathilda her shoes where you put them this morning."
"Peter!",--her voice rose higher,--"Peter!",--Peter was the youngest and
the favorite dog,--"Peter, if you don't leave Baby alone,"--Baby was an
old, blind terrier that Anna had loved for many years,--"Peter if you
don't leave Baby alone, I take a rawhide to you, you bad dog."
The good Anna had high ideals for canine chastity and discipline. The
three regular dogs [...] together with the [...] many stray ones that
Anna always kept until she found them homes, were all under strict
orders never to be bad one with the other.
A sad disgrace did once happen in the family. A little transient terrier
for whom Anna had found a home suddenly produced a crop of pups. The
new owners were certain that this Foxy had known no dog since she was in
their care. The good Anna held to it stoutly that her Peter and her
Rags were guiltless, and she made her statement with so much heat that
Foxy's owners were at last convinced that these results were due to
"You bad dog," Anna said to Peter that night, "you bad dog."
[...]Innocent blind old Baby was the only one who preserved the dignity becoming in a dog.
You see that Anna led an arduous and troubled life.
I'm reading Gertrude Stein's first novel, Three Lives
in 1909 by a vanity press in America while Stein lived in Paris. The
book's sideways Brothers Grimm sort of prose made the publisher think
that English was not Stein's first language, and he vainly pressured her
to have it professionally edited and rewritten into standard English
prose. Stein's first publisher did not get what was going on, but he was
a publisher of primarily books about genealogy and family histories,
not a publisher of novels. All of the major publishing houses had passed
on it and so Stein was forced to finance the book herself. She was
lucky to have a large inheritance. It's amazing, really, that this book
made it to market.
I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to get around to reading Stein. She's doing, in Three Lives
anyway, the sort of thing I do in my own writing. There is no plot, no
principle action of the story; the narrative is made up of events,
surely, events that illustrate the psychology of the characters, and so
things are constantly happening
, but the only connectedness
between those events are the characters. There's no real causation in
the novel, no puzzle to solve, no goal to be reached. In other words,
it's a lot like life. I'm really enjoying the book so far. Stein could
clearly see the comedy of being human. Yes, yes, stereotypes of
immigrants and minorities, and all of that. She had her prejudices and
blind spots. But she could write, and she knew what she was about with
her ideas of structure, of making everything in the narrative of equal
importance, of writing about character rather than quest.
Before an unhappy romance drove her to flee to Paris, Stein was a
medical student. I am constantly amazed at the link between physicians
and novelists. Though perhaps there is a greater link between, say, taxi
drivers or bricklayers and novelists. I have done no particular
research into this.
I am reading the Penguin Classics edition of the book, which contains as
back matter Stein's early unpublished attempt at a novel (QED
That's a nice touch, editors of Penguin Classics, but what the hell is
going on with the layout of this book? The gutter is so tight that it is
nearly impossible to read the text along the right-hand margin of the
left-hand pages. I could become quite cross about this were I so
inclined. Gertrude Stein gets none of the blame for this, I hasten to