LITERATURE

Gertrude Stein Has Arrived: The Homecoming of a Literary Legend

Johns Hopkins. Sept. 2019. 264p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781421431536. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781421431543. BIOG
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After years of toiling in obscurity as an American expat living in Paris with only a handful of influential devotees (such as Sherwood Anderson, Carl Van Vechten, and Ernest Hemingway), Gertrude Stein (1874–1946) vaulted to unexpected fame with the publication of her classic tell-all The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933). The book’s widespread publicity encouraged Stein and her lifelong partner, Alice B. Toklas (1877–1967), to tour their native country, which Stein had not returned to since 1903. Morris (Fraud of the Century) painstakingly traces Toklas and Stein’s steps across America in 1934 during the middle of the Great Depression; New York and Chicago are two cities the pair grow to love. Along the way, they meet and befriend a coterie of notable writers, including Thornton Wilder, Dashiel Hammett, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Stein is interviewed by young college newspaperman Walter Kronkite. Listing every stop during their tour can get monotonous. However, Morris succeeds in describing a time when an experimental writer could become a celebrity.
VERDICT Accessible and engaging, this fresh look at Stein’s life is especially recommended for those interested in modernist literature.

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