Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The book I had to have

This was my first book by Gertrude Stein - I found it at Archives in Brisbane, a bookshop that is the archetypal secondhand bookshop - shelves stretching up to the high ceilings in an old building, ladders, a sense of hush, and absolutely packed to the gunnels with books.

In my opinion, Archives, you are also too expensive. I paid  $12.95 for this book, which fell to bits the moment I read it (note masking tape on the spine).

Still, it had provenance, having come from the Brooklyn Public Library ( WITHDRAWN FROM FREE USE IN CITY CULTURAL AND WELFARE INSTITUTIONS. MAY BE SOLD FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY ONLY   says the stamp inside the back cover).

And why did I have to have it?

It had a voice so confident and unusual that I thought I might learn something about writing from it. That is often my most compelling motive for buying a book.

For a brief while my writing was under the spell of Gertrude Stein, but fortunately, none of it (because it was a poor imitation) made its way into print.  Imitation of any sort is to be avoided (now stealing - that's another matter. 'Good artists imitate, great artists steal.')

James Herbert was often a very angry negro. He was fierce and serious, and he was very certain that he often had good reason to be angry with Melanctha, who knew so well how to be nasty, and to use her learning with a father who knew nothing.
From 'Melanctha', in 3 Lives, by Gertrude Stein

The other women she writes about are 'The Good Anna' and 'The Gentle Lena'.

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