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If You Enjoy It Then You Understand It

June 4th, 2008

Daniel Pontius

A CUTLET. A blind agitation is manly and uttermost.
Tender Buttons. Objects, 1914.

My friend Mr. RM of West Palm Beach once told me he thought that Alice B. wrote the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and not Gertrude Stein, as Stein’s works are incomprehensible and The Autobiography is not.

I’ve always enjoyed reading about authors rather than reading their work. Gertrude Stein was my first favorite person to read about. She said things of which I had never heard. “It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.” It thrilled me. This, Picasso’s portrait, was on the cover of one of my favorite biographies that I read in high school. I used to stare at the cover; imagining it. It became a symbol for me of, that which was beyond where I was, so when wandering through the MET ten years ago I came across the portrait, it surprised me. It was not unlike one of Thoreau’s deers in the woods.

See portrait in situ here.

I still like to sport a Gertrude haircut and I still fantasize about having a suit made out of brown corduroy and taking up with socks and sandals for long walks around Paris (It is not what France gave you but what it did not take from you that was important). The title of this post is Stein. The rest of the quote is, “If you do not enjoy it, why do you make a fuss about it?” My new motto. You can hear the interview from 1934 here.

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