Sunday slice: Gertrude Stein again again


Here is another extract from the unpublished manuscript of Gertrude Stein unearthed by our colleague Denis Kodaly.  Previous posts were on May 14 and June 11.

Endings can be nice, but not always desirable. A house can have an ending but is rarely totally desirable. People can carry an ending with them, or just the memory of an ending, and not feel ridiculous. On the other hand, how can one carry a house everywhere? Unless one is a snail or some other invertebrate, one would not like to burdened with a house. This argument will lead to an ending, an ending which most people can understand. To talk of understanding may be to talk of sense. In the common parlance nonsense cannot be understood. It may be appreciated by a select few but it is not understood by the person in the street. No matter where the street may be, understanding is not there. There among the people that walk, talk or exist in the street. I have been in many streets. I have not been impressed by my having been in many streets, but I have been there none the less. Perhaps. I was recognized, because nobody talked to me of sense or nonsense. My being there may have brought to light the issue of sense and meaning. People were loth to speak to me, or to anybody else while I was in the street. I do not say that they loathed me, but they said nothing. I remember walking in a shopping mall in Columbus, Ohio. There was a dress shop with two mannequins in the window. One mannequin was wearing a red dress and a black hat and the other was wearing a blue dress but no hat. Next door was a boot repair shop, and directly across the street was a shop with no name but with a grand piano in the window. Nobody seemed to understand the significance of such an arrangement. I looked at people but their faces were blank. I said nothing and they said nothing. The situation was amazing. Nobody from Kansas City could have understood it. I knew and I understood that I knew. Others may know that they know, or think that they know that they know. This does not always indicate understanding. The bell tinkles and its tinkling is taken to be tinkling. Tinkling is not usually connected with sense.

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6 thoughts on “Sunday slice: Gertrude Stein again again

  1. Thanks for this post. As you know, I’ve been thinking a lot about endings lately. Though ‘endings’ is where Gertrude Stein ‘starts’, as I read the passage, she moves on to a discussion about the significance of ordinary objects, (and people passed in the street). Can one wrest meaning and understanding from them? And if so, how? Very good questions, to my way of thinking. There’s a recent review – more of an essay really – about David Malouf on ‘The Sydney Review of Books’ site, which discusses the meaning of ordinary objects in his work. I found it well worth reading.

    1. You have done very well,Dorothy, to make such good sense of Gertrude’s rather abstruse thought processes!
      Will look for the David Malouf article. There are some very good poems about ordinary objects, including one by Neruda “Ode to a pair of socks”-
      Wild socks/my feet were/two wool/fish

  2. Sunday slice? Here’s another, with more straightforward meaning:
    Chocolate cake breakfast could help you lose weight

    Eating chocolate cake as part of a full breakfast can help you lose weight, say scientists.
    Chocolate cake breakfast could help you lose weight
    A meal in the morning provides energy for the day’s tasks, aids in brain functioning and kick-starts the body’s metabolism, making it crucial for weight loss and maintenance Photo: ALAMY
    2:10PM GMT 08 Feb 2012
    It sounds too good to be true but new research says having dessert – along with the traditional fry up – burns off the pounds.
    Morning is the best time to consume sweets because that’s when the body’s metabolism is most active – and we have the rest of the day to work off the calories, a new study shows.
    Eating cookies or chocolate as part of breakfast that includes proteins and carbs also helps stem the craving for sweets later.

    [The photo didn’t copy in, but is the mirror image of yours.]

  3. We certainly have no argument with chocolate cake for breakfast. The cover of “Crane Mansions” is entirely occupied by a spendiferous piece of chocolate layer cake.

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