And I was sold and sold and sold throughout the whole book. I loved reading about the intricacies of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas's relationship, I loved reading about their romance in its historical context, I loved how Janet Malcolm laid bare the research techniques of the investigative biographer, and I loved reading her dissections of Stein's writing, and about other Stein scholars.
One of the most fascinating episodes in the book is the story behind an important finding of the Stein scholar, professor Ulla E. Dydo. For more than two decades Dydo compared printed Stein texts with manuscripts looking for errors.
While reading Stanzas in Meditation, Dydo came across something truly odd:
In the manuscript, she found that almost everywhere the auxiliary verb "may" appeared Stein had crossed it out and put in the word "can." ... In addition, when the month of May appeared it was crossed out and "day" or "today" was substituted. The revisions make no sense and are clear disimprovements... Why had Stein subverted her work in this way?
The answer came to Dydo in a dream. In it, she recalled an incident that Stein records in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, in which Toklas finds a forgotten Stein novel that features May Bookstaver, the woman whom Stein had loved before Toklas. Toklas became so enranged that, according to Dydo, there are no "mays" in Stanzas in Meditation because Stein had been forced to remove them.
This afternoon while we were eating lunch on the deck, our two chooks came and fought over the crusts we threw them. Dirt, who's the more friendly, personable of the two, grabbed one first only to have it stolen by Cuba. "Go Alice!" I heard myself call out, as I had unthinkingly associated boisterous, likable Dirt with Gertrude and the quiet, fierce Cuba with Alice.
Explaining to PJ and Z what I meant and blogging about it now, I am reminded of the Stein quote: "Human beings are interested in two things. They are interested in the reality and interested in telling about it."