Monday, August 17, 2009

reading the autobiography of alice b toklas

well this is a fun summer read but I have read this before but still enjoyed it it seems gertrude stein for years nagged alice b toklas into writing her memoirs she said you could call it wives i have sat with or my twenty five years with a genius or something and alice b toklas said i don't have time to be writing on top of everything else i have to do so gertrude stein wrote this book and it made her famous in america not three lives the making of americans and not certainly tender buttons but this witty book written in alices voice a memoir going back to 1903 and has chapter headings like gertrude stein in paris i come to paris the war and like that alice recalls the vernissage in paris around 1907 when the portrait by matisse of his wife made such a scandal people attacked the painting and tried to scrape off the paint but gertrude stein bought the portrait and hung it on the all of her atelier at 27 rue de fleurus and nobody could say why the portrait antagonized people so until it was revealed that the woman whose face looked like a horse was matisses wife it was thought insulting but alice goes on to say lovely things about madame matisse and tells a story of the five year old son of the janitor at 27 rue de fleurus who when all the paintings were ignored that is all the paintings on the walls of gertrude stein's atelier the paintings werent worth anything nobody wanted them that is to say nobody thought they wanted them the walls were filled with nudes and braques and cezannes and matisses and picassos this little boy jumped into getrude steins arms and looked over at a large nude and cried oh la la une femme and gertrude stein knew then the paintings would be worth something some day later gertrude stein told alice b toklas to take french lessons from fernande olivier who was picassos mistress because they were splitting up she and picasso and fernande needed the money and alice was agreeable fifty cents hour the problem was that for all the conversation and fernande was lovely and had a beautiful speaking voice and spoke elegant french but for all that fernande only had three topic hats perfumes and ive forgotten the third topic thats why gertrude stein said later oh wives bother me they bore me they bore me to tears helene was a wife she was also the femme de menage or housekeeper for gertrude stein and her brother at 27 rue de fleurus in fact helene being a wife became a problem since her husband made her quit the household he did not approve of helene working for americans but helene was a thrifty and efficient housekeeper i can feed the entire household on five francs a a day it is my pride she would say and so she did sometimes if company was expected she had to go up to seven or eight francs that was her pride also after all but she resented guests who would invite themselves to dinner she resented matisse who once asked in advance what was to be served then later gertrude stein told helene monsieur matisse will stay to dinner and helene said in that case i will fry the eggs rather than making an omelet it requires the same amount of eggs and butter but it lacks respect he is a french man and so he will understand and if youre looking for a fun read to the end of a hot dull summer do yourself a favor and read the autobiography of alice b toklas by gertrude stein the end is funny as i said earlier gertrude stein had been after alice toklas to write a memoir for years and alice b toklas said im not a writer and i dont have time so gertrude stein said well you know what i am going to do i am going to write it myself the autobiography of alice b toklas and she did and she has and you should read it

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