Alice B. Toklas (): Gertrude Stein’s lover | Svetlana Kitto
Janet Malcolm on the relationship between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. aris, March Alice B. Toklas, the longtime friend of Gertrude Stein, who helped the late writer preside over a celebrated literary salon, died here early today. Gertrude Stein is a famed and formidable icon of modernism. For her part, Alice B. Toklas provided support and assistance to Stein by running the was, it should not overshadow the significance of their relationship with Carl Van Vechten.
Come to it gently. Alice's role was to play the midwife to Gertrude's genius, but she also stands as an argument for the idea that midwives, like housewives, are anything but incidental.
To her, housekeeping for geniuses was an art in itself: I must say that you can not tell what a picture really is or what an object really is until you dust it every day and you can not tell what a book is until you type or proof read it. It then does something to you that only reading can never do. Besides dusting the art, Alice spent quite a bit of time transposing art onto ordinary household objects.
Dishes for artists were a frequent necessity at 27 rue de Fleurus, and a key element of the "Alice B. Toklas Cookbook," Alice's collection of recipes and the stories behind them, published after Gertrude's death. A culinary work called bass for Picasso was poached in wine and butter, following the advice of Alice's aunt, who contended that a "fish, having lived its life in water, once caught, should have no further contact with the element in which it had been born and raised.
Picasso, though impressed by the beauty of the fish, said that it should have been made for Matisse, not for him. Nevertheless, he rewarded Alice's artistry with a needlepoint pattern, which she used to make tapestries for two Louis XVI chairs. And of course Alice, in the classic role of an artist's lover, served as Gertrude's muse. But given that Gertrude's art was not of the classic genre, this could take the form of not-so-classic endeavors.
One guest remembers watching Gertrude instruct Alice to bat a -- what else? At some point, Gertrude suggested that Alice write an autobiography. Her suggested titles illustrate her ideas about Alice's status in their relationship: Here she is, writing as "Alice": I am a pretty good housekeeper and a pretty good gardener and a pretty good needlewoman and a pretty good secretary and a pretty good vet for dogs and I have to do them all at once and I found it difficult to add being a pretty good author.
About six weeks ago Gertrude Stein said, it does not look to me as if you were ever going to write that autobiography.
You know what I am going to do. I am going to write it for you. I'm going to write it as simply as Dafoe did the autobiography of Robinson Crusoe.
Gertrude and Alice
And she has and this is it. For Gertrude to write the autobiography of Alice in Alice's "voice" could be construed as sheer hubris.
And the novel, which begins with their first meeting and ends with Gertrude's decision to write the autobiography, certainly implies that Alice's life begins and ends with Gertrude. But it is also a love poem of the deepest kind -- an attempt to literally become her lover. For what it's worth, friends who knew them both say that Gertrude faithfully reproduced Alice's verbal tics and quirks.
Besides, there is evidence that Alice had quite a bit of power herself, albeit power of the sneakier, passive-aggressive variety.
Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas: A lesbian love story | Lesbian News
She served as Gertrude's amanuensis and editor. She typed all of Gertrude's manuscripts, making editorial suggestions, and -- since she made the astonishing claim that she read Gertrude's writing better than Gertrude -- perhaps rewrote entire passages.
In the published version of the autobiography, "Alice" says about Gertrude's "The Making of Americans": Miss Stein was massive, with a large face and close-cropped gray hair. Miss Toklas was small and wispy and at one time had brown hair, which she wore bobbed and with bangs. She had endless specialities, but her chicken dishes were especially magnificent.
The secret of her talent was great pains and a remarkable palate.
Extravagant Crowd | Gertrude Stein & Alice B. Toklas
The former contained a recipe for fudge made with marijuana or hashish, which, she said, "anyone could whip up on a rainy day. But it's not necessarily sauce for the chicken, the duck, the turkey or the guinea hen.
Several instances of Miss Toklas's influence have been recorded. One occurred inwhen Miss Stein was giving a shipboard interview to a group of reporters in New York. He had gone to the Stein-Toklas apartment, he recalled, and was waiting in the living room when he overheard a bitter quarrel between the two women. He immediately left the apartment, he said, because "it was too bad to hear.GERTRUDE STEIN
Hemingway's feelings about the two women apparently were known to Miss Toklas. Asked to give an opinion of Hemingway, she replied: It might be unpublishable anyway. Her style, in sharp distinction to Miss Stein's convolutions, was simple, spare and economical.
Alice B. Toklas
It was, indeed, the same style in which Miss Stein had written her autobiography in Toklas," related Miss Stein's life as if Miss Toklas were the narrator. Taken on the strength of her body of work alone, Stein would be counted as a significant figure; however, the salon she hosted with her partner Alice B.
Toklas in their Paris home brought together confluences of talent and thinking that would help define modernism in literature and art. For her part, Alice B. Toklas provided support and assistance to Stein by running the household, typing and editing her work, and correcting proofs of her books. She also asserted her ambitions for Stein and worked as a kind of manager, publicist, and agent for her and her work.
Van Vechten, before he and Stein actually met, had written articles about her work, praising its formal innovation, wit, and intelligence, but it was after they met in Paris in and became friends, that Van Vechten became her informal, stateside literary agent. Toklas, Van Vechten played no small part in orchestrating their lecture tour of the United States.