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Three Lives, by Gertrude Stein, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics: All editions are beautifully designed and are printed Three Lives, by Gertrude Stein, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics: All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.   At first glance, Three Lives seems to be three straightforward portraits of women living in the early twentieth century. “The Good Anna” describes an exacting German house servant; “Melanctha” explores the love affair of an African-American woman; and “The Gentle Lena” narrates the fate of a patient German maid. Yet these are daring prose experiments that reflect Gertrude Stein’s revolt against the popular narrative style of realism. As she composed these works, Stein sought to emulate the aesthetic of the innovative painters Cezanne, Picasso, and Matisse. She rejected the more traditionally literary emphasis on social order and plot, replacing these with a focus on language, tone, and description. The result is a simple yet stunning view of the lives of three distinct women. Self-published in 1909, Three Lives catapulted Stein to the forefront of the influential American Modernist movement, which inspired such later novelists as Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kerouac. Jonathan Levin is Associate Professor of English and American Studies at Fordham University, where he teaches nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature and culture. He is the author of The Poetics of Transition:  Emerson, Pragmatism, and American Literary Modernism, as well as numerous essays and reviews.


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Three Lives, by Gertrude Stein, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics: All editions are beautifully designed and are printed Three Lives, by Gertrude Stein, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics: All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.   At first glance, Three Lives seems to be three straightforward portraits of women living in the early twentieth century. “The Good Anna” describes an exacting German house servant; “Melanctha” explores the love affair of an African-American woman; and “The Gentle Lena” narrates the fate of a patient German maid. Yet these are daring prose experiments that reflect Gertrude Stein’s revolt against the popular narrative style of realism. As she composed these works, Stein sought to emulate the aesthetic of the innovative painters Cezanne, Picasso, and Matisse. She rejected the more traditionally literary emphasis on social order and plot, replacing these with a focus on language, tone, and description. The result is a simple yet stunning view of the lives of three distinct women. Self-published in 1909, Three Lives catapulted Stein to the forefront of the influential American Modernist movement, which inspired such later novelists as Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kerouac. Jonathan Levin is Associate Professor of English and American Studies at Fordham University, where he teaches nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature and culture. He is the author of The Poetics of Transition:  Emerson, Pragmatism, and American Literary Modernism, as well as numerous essays and reviews.

30 review for Three Lives (Barnes Noble Classics Series)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “You look ridiculous if you dance You look ridiculous if you don't dance So you might as well dance.” ― Gertrude Stein, Three Lives These stories were certainly interesting. Each of these stories was interesting. Certainly, after reading them, I thought each of the stories by Gertrude Stein interesting. When I read them, I never knew if I could stand them enough to find them interesting. I did, however, stand them and by the end I did find them mostly interesting. The second story was certainly the “You look ridiculous if you dance You look ridiculous if you don't dance So you might as well dance.” ― Gertrude Stein, Three Lives These stories were certainly interesting. Each of these stories was interesting. Certainly, after reading them, I thought each of the stories by Gertrude Stein interesting. When I read them, I never knew if I could stand them enough to find them interesting. I did, however, stand them and by the end I did find them mostly interesting. The second story was certainly the strongest. The second story was "Melanctha" and I think it was the strongest. It certainly was the longest. The flow of this novella, although long and repetitive, was still strong. "The Good Anna" was the first story and wasn't as long as the longest story which was "Melanctha". The last story was "The Gentle Lena" which could have been named "the Passive Lena". Everybody bosses Lena around, which makes her passive. That is why it could have been named The Passive Lena. But it was the last story, and Stein called it "The Gentle Lena" and she is the boss of her own book I guess. She wasn't passive about naming the stories in her own book. It was her book. I didn't hate these stories and found these stories interesting. I just didn't love them. Each of the stories was interesting. The most interesting was "Melanctha". "Melanctha" was the longest, but also most interesting. Perhaps it was the race theme of "Melanctha" I found most interesting. Anyway, I'm glad I read these interesting, repetitive stories which I didn't love. I found each interesting. Just not interesting to read again and while I trusted the stories I just couldn't love them, or keep my mind from wandering. ___________________

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I refuse to give it any stars...for this reason alone: I was assigned it in undergrad (or at least one chapter, "Melanctha") for a class about white writers and how they construct race in their fictions. I only read maybe 20 pages of said story, and no more, and ended up writing a 15 page paper on it. I was stoned and drunk at the time, having partied the night before I realized it was due. I kept going, the smoke and booze fueling my all-nighter. And, what's more, I clearly remember praying I refuse to give it any stars...for this reason alone: I was assigned it in undergrad (or at least one chapter, "Melanctha") for a class about white writers and how they construct race in their fictions. I only read maybe 20 pages of said story, and no more, and ended up writing a 15 page paper on it. I was stoned and drunk at the time, having partied the night before I realized it was due. I kept going, the smoke and booze fueling my all-nighter. And, what's more, I clearly remember praying to Jesus that I would get through it with a D or something and basically not embarrass myself completely. The paper was about how Stein uses the repetition of words and phrases signifing colour in a literal, adjectival sense but also to denote race but also using both aspects of this at once. For example: "they (black people, that is) shouted their black curses in the air"...she is using the word to describe not only the type of language but her impression of the language and also the type of people speaking as well as the type of speech they utter. Everybody knows Stein spent quite a bit of time with Picasso, Braque and so forth, suggesting that perhaps her inspiration for describing a different character might have come from the methods of the visual arts as much as anything else. She's using her words like brushstrokes, a dab of colour here, a daub of colour there, and voila! Interesting, no? I guess it was just some good weed. So I hand the paper in and wait with bated breath. I get it back and not only did it pass muster but the teacher in question actually gave me an A (!) quoted it in class (!!) and said it was, in parts, brilliant (!!!) and suggested I submit it for "Best Essay" senior year. Needless to say I was shocked and totally taken aback. I agreed to revise it, soup it up, and so on. PROBLEM IS....I had a terrible math score on the SAT and I couldn't test out the minumum math requirement for my grungy radical liberal arts school. I had to take intermediate math in the last semester of my senior year. I'm failing wildly, getting 40's on tests and things, and starting to sweat bullets as to how to actually get the grade and graduate, for the love of god. My teacher was this obliviously cheerful Indian dude who had no idea what I was talking about and/or how to help me and guilelessly told me anyone could master the stuff, you just have to keep studying! I was at wit's end until I discovered that I could take what was apparantly a ridiculously easy qualifying exam. I did, it was as ridiculously easy as they'd said (I didn't even need to use a calculator) and I passed it and thus withdrew from the class with maybe three weeks left in the semester. True to form, the teacher had no problem with letting me withdraw and actually told me I was welcome to come in and take the final test anyway, Friday morning at 9 am, just to see how I would do. NO. THANKS. I said then and I'll say it again, I'm not waking up at 9 AM on a Friday to take a math test "for old times' sake"... So anyway I never got around to revising my essay, or reading the rest of the book or the chapter because I was occupied with terrifying and insurmountable math business for months. I submitted the paper anyway and didn't get the nod, which went to my very good friend Ralph who had worked his ass off on his and had actually had several computers stolen from him throughout the semester. I wasn't anything but glad for Ralph, who is now a bartender in Brooklyn. Epilogue: I realized after looking this over (thanks for the 'likes', guys!) that I feel totally unqualified to rate this book simply because I still have not, to this day, read anything more than what I'd written about in the paper.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    A pair of hypnotic tales about immigrant women struggling to navigate daily life in America bookend a novella about the plight of a biracial woman prone to wandering and melancholy. Full of repetition, all three pieces chart the patterns to be found in each woman’s life, across romance, work, and mood. Stein’s mechanistic prose is entrancing and perfectly suited to capturing the rhythms of routine and learned behavior; her philosophy’s painstakingly deterministic. “The Good Anna” and “The Gentle A pair of hypnotic tales about immigrant women struggling to navigate daily life in America bookend a novella about the plight of a biracial woman prone to wandering and melancholy. Full of repetition, all three pieces chart the patterns to be found in each woman’s life, across romance, work, and mood. Stein’s mechanistic prose is entrancing and perfectly suited to capturing the rhythms of routine and learned behavior; her philosophy’s painstakingly deterministic. “The Good Anna” and “The Gentle Lena,” the first and last stories, are well worth checking out, but anti-Black stereotypes saturate the middle, “Melanctha,” blighting the collection as a whole.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    I started this book with a great deal of curiosity recently, for a book club. I had tried to read Gertrude Stein before--Tender Buttons--but have to admit that that novel bounced me out on the first page. Three Lives was an excellent introduction to her project, and accessible enough that I didn't quit right away, but actually got through the semi-middle of the second novella. The actual "stories" of Three Lives, two German American servant women and a black woman mostly in mind-numbing conversa I started this book with a great deal of curiosity recently, for a book club. I had tried to read Gertrude Stein before--Tender Buttons--but have to admit that that novel bounced me out on the first page. Three Lives was an excellent introduction to her project, and accessible enough that I didn't quit right away, but actually got through the semi-middle of the second novella. The actual "stories" of Three Lives, two German American servant women and a black woman mostly in mind-numbing conversation with a lover, were hardly what made Stein's reputation. It was the prose itself in which she made her impact, this weird, intriguing, blocky repetitive way of storytelling that reminded me a good deal of the oral tradition of folk tales, even of Homer. The way people are described by a certain rhythmic set of adjectives, and so they would always remain--types, rather than individual people. For example, in the first story, which I did manage to get through--"The Good Anna"-- Anna's first employer is described as a 'large, fair, helpless woman..." and continues to be described that way each time, as is her current employer, another of the same type, and the words repeat in a singsong, "Anna found her place with large, abundant women, for such were always lazy, careless or all helpless..." "Anna's superiors must be always these large helpless women..." whereas Anna works and worries: "But when she was once more at work for her Miss Mary Wadsmith, all the good effect of those several months of rest were soon worked and worried away." There's great alliteration here too.. So what is Stein's project in Three Lives? It seems, to replicate way the mind loops back around to the same forms, the same shapes. There is an implicit world view of the human being here--one of stasis, and the lack of ordination of importance--small things and large things are given equal weight, like a Cezanne painting, an artist whom Stein admired, paying equal attention and weight to every part of the canvas, placing brushstroke side by side by side. "Anna was a medium sized, thin, hardworking, worrying woman." and so she will ever be. There's a good deal of sly humor in the first tale, watching Anna, who uses her position for the purposes of gaining power in each household. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I was going to. Which was not the case in the second, longer story--that of the black woman, Melanctha, which I could only get about a third the way through. The blatant and unthinking racism not withstanding, the repetition here wasn't in the least bit fun, it was just brutal, especially in the dialogue. Good lord, I could not stand to read Melanctha's name repeated again and again twenty times in a single block of dialogue. It was like being punched in the arm in the same place, over and over again. I even liked her logic, she was much more realistic than the good Anna. For instance, Melanctha has an alcoholic friend, Jane, from whom she learned 'the wisdom of the world'. The boyfriend, with whom most of this excruciating dialogue takes place, is a doctor who is treating Jane and likes her a good deal. The doctor purports the best way to live is to avoid excitement, and yet Melanctha points out that that is exactly what he likes about Jane, than she's led an exciting life. But the writing... how many times can one stand to read the same point made over and over, and the repetition of character names in spoken utterance. It finally threw me out. I am not rating Three Lives, as what Stein is trying to do was so extraordinary for her time--in 1906 she was attempting in prose what the modern artists she collected, Cezanne, Picasso, etc, were doing in art. Maybe a 5 for Inventiveness and 2 for pleasure? But she is the anti-Virginia Woolf--a note also given by another person in my book group!-- giving these people little interior life, and the blocky woodenness of the language, which was ultimately more than I could bear. What was interesting is how you can see what Hemingway learned from her. He is not the avant gardist she is. He was a young and impressionable writer when he met her in Paris and she introduced him to her circle. And you can hear the coming of Hemingway in some of her simple constructions (she rarely uses a dependent clause, always the conjunction 'and'). Definitely she has a major place in the development of literature in English, and so worth trying out. My advice is to read and enjoy the first story and figure, as Ram Dass said, "When you get the message, hang up the phone."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Zapata

    I give up. I give up completely. I give up without doing more than skim the second and third stories in this book. I simply must give up immediately, if not sooner. Now that I hopefully have exorcised Stein's writing style from my mind, I will try to explain why I have to mark this book a DNF. I noticed the repetition in the first story here, The Good Anna. But other than wondering if the Bad Anna would ever show up, I did not mind reading the same words over again so many times. But I also did n I give up. I give up completely. I give up without doing more than skim the second and third stories in this book. I simply must give up immediately, if not sooner. Now that I hopefully have exorcised Stein's writing style from my mind, I will try to explain why I have to mark this book a DNF. I noticed the repetition in the first story here, The Good Anna. But other than wondering if the Bad Anna would ever show up, I did not mind reading the same words over again so many times. But I also did not care what happened to Anna. She had a need to control everyone around her, and she managed her life in such a way that she satisfied that need. But even with the many passages about the good deeds she did for others (and those constant reminders that this was The Good Anna) I did not like her at all and was unmoved by the end of her story. I just wanted it over by that point and it did not matter in the least what happened to her, which is a sad way to feel about any main character in a story. Then there was the curious incident of Julia, the daughter of one of Anna's closest friends, getting into 'trouble'. She had been seeing a clerk for a few years "and now it was needful that they should be married." Which to my mind means a baby on the way. But the mother has no money and the clerk has no money so The Good Anna gives the young couple a start in their new life. Then she proceeds to complain about how they are living, and scolds Julia, saying that when she has children, there will be no money to raise them with. Julia laughs and replies that maybe they won't have children, then Anna rants about that for the rest of a long paragraph. But if there was no baby at that point, why was it 'needful' for Julia and her clerk to marry? I tried the second story, Melanctha but the racism was extremely offensive so I skipped to the third story, The Gentle Lena. This time the writing style defeated me. I felt like I was reading something my niece might have tried to write back when she was seven or eight years old. I also have to repeat myself about the repetition...it was torture in this story, and I only got through one computer screen's worth of print. This was my first and last attempt to read Gertrude Stein. Apologies to anyone who admires her work, but I was not impressed or inspired by it at all.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    2.5/5 I once tried to take a starting sort of psychology class at the community college I attended from the time I left university up until I found out I could return. Along with the lunch-annihilating time and the scheduled multiple choice test per week, there was the joy of the teacher being a behaviorist specializing in children. I had suspected something of that sort, having chosen this class out of a mix of neccessity and a morbid curiosity about how these academics of sanity presented thems 2.5/5 I once tried to take a starting sort of psychology class at the community college I attended from the time I left university up until I found out I could return. Along with the lunch-annihilating time and the scheduled multiple choice test per week, there was the joy of the teacher being a behaviorist specializing in children. I had suspected something of that sort, having chosen this class out of a mix of neccessity and a morbid curiosity about how these academics of sanity presented themselves in the today of institutionalization and murder by cop, but I hadn't taken my violent revulsion upon her declaration of "I don't need to care about what's wrong in order to fix the kid," into account. I dropped the class soon after and hadn't had much reason to think on what little I'd gleaned from the odious attendance until running into Stein, and her bio, and her Q.E.D. Human experimentation, it seems, comes in all forms. So. Melanctha. The only one of the trio of livelihoods assigned if not read, replete with the usual they-did-it-for-the-progress and just look at that form and modernism and putting on of the race hat. Yeah. That slag of shit. See, Stein had a behaviorist streak a mile wide, and the only thing to do after dropping out of med school was to use character types that, for whatever reason, she felt comfortable imposing her fancies about gender/class/race essentialism upon. I've said many a time that if you want to be lazy in this area you need to be fucking perfection in all the others, and Stein is no Faulkner, or O'Connor, or Forster, or any number of the canon whose worming into my heart I'm a lot more resigned to. Ultimately, distraction's the name of the game, and I would've dealt with the prose a lot better if there hadn't been so much "Well the baby died and she didn't have any actual white blood and he didn't purely have the warm sunshiny n— smile," topped up with the prof acting like the work had been assigned to the class by the Powers That Be. Newsflash: if you put a target on the back of a work that people now have to chase after in order to eventually put food on the table, the road to hell is paved with the author's good intentions. Better yet, the work is now a two way street that is enforced for thousands of readers, and if it doesn't go all smooth and shiny for more reasons than repetition and grammar and conscientious lack of character development, welp. That's survival of the classical fittest for you. Here are the problems, though. I acquired an edition of Three Lives that included Stein's posthumously published work Q.E.D., and the autobiographical three-woman love triangle had so much of my own recent bisexual awakening in it that 'Melanctha' upset me even more. Q.E.D. is a lot simpler with being all white and female and far less conscientious about its experimentation, but it's far less disgusting, it makes far more sense, and would've been a much braver publication in 1903, even anonymously or under a pen name, than the TL Stein ended up putting forth in 1909. When one takes into account the original inspirations for the characters of 'Melanctha' while looking at their respective fates, the whole matter just collapses into this thick morass of egotism and spite. I mentioned multiple problems, so here's the other: Stein is Jewish. What this means in terms of context of my judgement is that my US-centric social justice discussions often forgo Antisemitism entirely, so frequently devolving into Zionism generalizations and "Aren't Jewish people white anyway?" that my focus on racism would be utter horseshit if I didn't acknowledge other impacting personal prejudices. It's not me calling a fellow white LGBT woman from more than a century ago racist. It's me, a white LGBT woman, calling a Jewish LGBT woman from more than a century ago racist for her treatment of a black cast of characters that happens to include an LGBT woman, and that shit is complicated. It's enough that I might raise the star count to a three later on because like hell am I not antisemitic when I've just started learning all the ways one can be, but for now, I have this paragraph. Two way street, remember? It's useless if I forget that. TL&DR: There's this book and it's weird and the author's racist but I'm also a bigot when it comes to the author and we both like(d) to check out women so that's kind of neat. Ish. (view spoiler)[I still think Stein's an asshole for reducing her first lesbian crush into a 'Melanctha' who's used to develop a male character and then killed off when she's served her purpose, but that's an untrustworthy bit of narration if there ever was one. (hide spoiler)]

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Hmm...Three Lives? Classic. Moving. Brilliant. Ground breaking....How about lousy? In literary studies, Gertrude Stein is always discussed with such reverential deference that to criticize her work is deemed anti-intellectual and absurd. Nevertheless, I feel I can say with great confidence that Three Lives is one of the worst books I have ever read. While reading "Melanctha" for a Modernist American literature course, I struggled with the baby language and ceaseless repetition. I get that she's t Hmm...Three Lives? Classic. Moving. Brilliant. Ground breaking....How about lousy? In literary studies, Gertrude Stein is always discussed with such reverential deference that to criticize her work is deemed anti-intellectual and absurd. Nevertheless, I feel I can say with great confidence that Three Lives is one of the worst books I have ever read. While reading "Melanctha" for a Modernist American literature course, I struggled with the baby language and ceaseless repetition. I get that she's trying to comment on the act of storytelling and make a point about the cyclical nature of life; I get it. However, my understanding of the goals Stein was striving for does not render this collection enjoyable--or even readable--for me at all. The repetitious baby language made me yearn to burn this collection, not read it and certainly never wish to study it. This story is actually the one that made me begin to hate Modernism and focus my degree on the nineteenth century, which was a wise and pleasing choice. So, I guess I have some respect for this book. Secondly, "Melanctha" really is one of the most racist stories I've ever read. And the caricatures are not the main problem, either; one can find offensive racist caricatures in countless novels and stories from Stein's era. "Melanctha" is so much more offensive than other caricatures, such as Rosedale in The House of Mirth or Mammy in Gone with the Wind, because not only are they racist images in themselves, but Stein is presenting them from the black characters' perspectives! In other words, "Melanctha" is Stein's idea of how black people think and act. The repetitious expressions are part of this portrayal, too. If I had to read "the warm laughter of Negro sunshine" one more time, I probably would have tossed my copy into a recycling bin. I find it almost comical how scholars (at least people I know) will excuse the social flaws of the collection in order to praise its supposed innovations, yet these same people strive to ban novels like Huck Finn. It exhausts me.

  8. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    My first, and probably last, experience with Gertrude was the illuminating Penguin Classics intro (damn those academics—they raise your hopes!) and the first 15pp of ‘The Good Anna’ which utilises Stein’s revolutionary modernist technique—bland, basic descriptive sentences intercut with laughable dialogue, then the same bland, basic descriptive sentences repeated in a different way, with unnoticeably different dialogue no less tittersome. Per parody example: Anna was sad. Miss Mathilda scolded A My first, and probably last, experience with Gertrude was the illuminating Penguin Classics intro (damn those academics—they raise your hopes!) and the first 15pp of ‘The Good Anna’ which utilises Stein’s revolutionary modernist technique—bland, basic descriptive sentences intercut with laughable dialogue, then the same bland, basic descriptive sentences repeated in a different way, with unnoticeably different dialogue no less tittersome. Per parody example: Anna was sad. Miss Mathilda scolded Anna. Anna was a good but sad girl. Her parents died when she was two. Miss Mathilda shot milk from her breasts. Anna was sad because her parents died. “Oh Mathilda!” Anna said. She was sad and had breasts. Miss Mathilda had lived on a farm and for certain reasons looked out the window at a sad-looking Anna, who was sad. MODERNISM IS RUBBISH.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    I really liked 3 Lives, Gertrude Stein. I really liked 3 Lives, Gertrude Stein, even though it was a little repetitive. It was a little repetitive but made me think. It made me think, Gertrude Stein, that you are really quite a genius because it is very hard to write this way, Gertrude Stein. Gertrude Stein, thank you.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Meen

    So, I got through the first story, "The Good Anna," without too much strain thanks to the helpful introduction in this edition that explains Stein's repetitive writing style. I wasn't particularly impressed, but I enjoy reading older fiction as much for the window into how life looked in the past as for the story. Again thanks to the introduction, I was prepared for the inevitably racist caricatures of black folks in "Melanctha" and was looking forward to what the intro author suggested was the So, I got through the first story, "The Good Anna," without too much strain thanks to the helpful introduction in this edition that explains Stein's repetitive writing style. I wasn't particularly impressed, but I enjoy reading older fiction as much for the window into how life looked in the past as for the story. Again thanks to the introduction, I was prepared for the inevitably racist caricatures of black folks in "Melanctha" and was looking forward to what the intro author suggested was the most developed character of the women in these stories. But sweet jeebus I don't know how I made it through that story without poking my freaking eyes out!!!! Melanctha and Jeff had the same accusatory conversation over and over and over and over and (at least one more) OVER again. The exact same phrases and sentences over and over, etc. It was excruiating. I ended up getting through it like I sometimes had to get through not drinking--second by second, minute by minute, this too shall pass, measuring the least little progression, you're almost there, look you did one more page! "The Gentle Lena" was a blessing after that ordeal, and I liked it much better than the other two but I can't tell if it's because the story was better or I was just relieved that it and the repetitive dialogue passages were so much shorter. I hate to say it, but if the rest of Stein's writing is this tedious I may have to risk my pink card and forgo The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. One a personal note, as I was rolling my eyes while Melanctha and Jeff went through the exact same argument with each other for the bazillionth time, I was also thinking about how if someone went back through my journal they would do the same thing as they read over and over my back and forth codependent obsessing about whichever guy I was with at the time b/c it all reads exactly the same, just fill in the appropriate name. *how embarrassing*

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sierra

    Gertrude Stein was a large, generous American woman who was a writer and a great lover of the good, warm, echoing-round sunshine of her own rosy prose. Gertrude Stein lived in Paris for many years and while she lived in Paris Gertrude Stein did write about serious, good, innocent women who were always unfortunate and who always did come to bad ends. Gertrude Stein wrote a novel in her own most ambitious rosy style, about innocent women who came to bad ends, that was very plain and true and full Gertrude Stein was a large, generous American woman who was a writer and a great lover of the good, warm, echoing-round sunshine of her own rosy prose. Gertrude Stein lived in Paris for many years and while she lived in Paris Gertrude Stein did write about serious, good, innocent women who were always unfortunate and who always did come to bad ends. Gertrude Stein wrote a novel in her own most ambitious rosy style, about innocent women who came to bad ends, that was very plain and true and full of the warm, intelligent, echoing-round sunshine of her own rosy prose, and she called the novel Three Lives. William James had met Gertrude Stein when he was her teacher in America, and he had taught her the idea of the “Stream of Consciousness” when she was living in America, before she moved to Paris and before Gertrude Stein ever known much about exactly how she was going to do, in her rosy, echoing-round prose. William James had taught Gertrude Stein in his field of Psychology, but William was a philosopher in his heart who loved to think and to think about thinking. William James had always tried to teach Gertrude Stein something that was important in the way she would later learn to do. William was a philosopher in his heart, and American, and intelligent, and always knew what the best way was for Gertrude Stein to do, and taught her very well in his good, intelligent, philosophical way. William James in his good philosophical way did help Gertrude Stein to write serious, good Stream of Consciousness writing, because she listened to what he said and studied his studies and thought about it and took it in very deeply. Always when Gertrude Stein learned from Will she heard in his intelligent, careful prose his good, serious ideas about thinking and the way he thought about thinking. And always she thought about how she could with these ideas about thinking and thinking about writing put them into her work, and how she could write about serious, good, innocent women who came to bad ends, in a Stream of Consciousness kind of style. The way Gertrude Stein came to do was not Stream of Consciousness the way William James wrote about Stream of Consciousness because William James was a philosopher in his heart and always knew that the best way to do was to be serious and intelligent and to think, and to think about thinking, and to write about thinking about thinking, and in this way to know how to do. Gertrude Stein was not a philosopher, but was a serious, intelligent writer and considered the things he taught her and tried her best in her generous, ambitious way to do as she believed she could do, and to write in a style that showed her good knowledge of thinking about thinking the way William had always taught her to do. With Will’s teaching Gertrude Stein always knew what was the right way for her to do as she was writing her rosy, echoing-round prose that was so ambitious and that she loved. Gertrude Stein really admired so much and praised in the sunshine of her echoing-round, rosy prose the people she wrote for and tried to help them with her Stream of Consciousness writing in her large, generous way, but it was not known to the readers of her ambitious novel Three Lives what she did think in her writing about thinking about thinking, about the good, innocent women who came to bad ends in her novel Three Lives. Gertrude Stein always did try to persuade by her writings the readers of the novel about women who came to bad ends, of the thoughts that the women who came to bad ends were all the time thinking in her Stream of Consciousness writings in her novel Three Lives, but Gertrude Stein did never give a simple answer.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Gertrude Stein mounted a sustained attack on language from her salon in Paris, where Ernest Hemingway came to learn most of what he knew about writing on her knee. Hers was one of the great artistic circles: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso were also part of her dazzlingly dangerous scene. She was a major influence on modernism. Picasso painted her, too, and here she is. What she isn't is a very good writer herself - at least not here, in this unsettling, unfriendly, experimental book. (And Gertrude Stein mounted a sustained attack on language from her salon in Paris, where Ernest Hemingway came to learn most of what he knew about writing on her knee. Hers was one of the great artistic circles: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso were also part of her dazzlingly dangerous scene. She was a major influence on modernism. Picasso painted her, too, and here she is. What she isn't is a very good writer herself - at least not here, in this unsettling, unfriendly, experimental book. (And this is supposed to be her easiest one!) It feels more like a thesis statement than a book, like Stein couldn't possibly have meant it to be read so much as referred to. Hemingway learned his simple language from her, but his big emotions come through readily. Stein's are so obstinately buried that it seems perverse. Hemingway famously said of Faulkner, "Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use." Gertrude Stein knows the simpler words too, and she seems to be limiting herself to about ten of them. Each of her three characters gets a few descriptors (she called them insistences). Anna "led an arduous and troubled life," in which the widow Mrs. Lehntman "was the only romance Anna ever knew." Melanctha is “graceful, pale yellow, intelligent, attractive," with "breakneck courage." Lena is "gentle" and "patient." These attributes get repeated, word-for-word, over and over, as though Stein is mocking the very idea of writing. Melanctha's story, the middle and longest one, is the most annoying. (Of course, this means that English professors also think it's the most brilliant one.) Most of the story is Melanctha fighting with her pain-in-the-ass boyfriend, who is boring and won't shut up. She's basically settling for him because he's a doctor, which, like, fair enough but she should just marry him and then murder him in his sleep like a regular person. Melanctha and Jeff have these endless, circular, repetitious arguments, and of course that is exactly what real relationships are like, so...great? But the thing with literature is that I want it to be both true and interesting, and Stein appears to have missed that second part. Also Stein thinks there's a "simple, promiscuous immorality of the black people," so you're gonna have to hear about that. The other two are easier to get through, and if you're super into cult landmark lit, go for it. Stein has her fans. Virginia Woolf was one: according to Michael Schmidt, [Woolf] sets the image of the clock ticking at the heart of fiction: Emily Bronte tried to conceal it, Sterne turned it upside down, Proust kept changing the hands to make things happen at the same time. Stein destroys it altogether, and when the clock is broken, syntax and all the other pacing elements perish with it. Which actually isn't definitely praise. Schmidt himself resorts to phrases like "patternings of parataxis" to describe her, and here we are with a writer who only uses ten words but requires everyone else to dredge up shit like "parataxis" to talk about them and, y'know, I'm not sure this is a conversation I need to be a part of.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Leni Iversen

    The first story, "The Good Anna", was alright. A bit tragicomic and rather vague. The story of the life of a woman of German descent who appears to be an asexual lesbian. I'm not sure. Everything is very vague, and with many repeated phrases, and then Anna dies. Stein is fond of repetitions. They seem to be her main literary device. This story was sort of a three star read, and the main reason why I didn't bail on the second story or rate the book one star. That, and I was sort of mesmerized by The first story, "The Good Anna", was alright. A bit tragicomic and rather vague. The story of the life of a woman of German descent who appears to be an asexual lesbian. I'm not sure. Everything is very vague, and with many repeated phrases, and then Anna dies. Stein is fond of repetitions. They seem to be her main literary device. This story was sort of a three star read, and the main reason why I didn't bail on the second story or rate the book one star. That, and I was sort of mesmerized by the strange repetitive language, so I guess it does work, on some level, as a literary device. The second story, "Melanctha", almost made me quit reading at the outset. It is about a woman who has a white mother and a black father. She has a friend who is a woman of colour but was raised by white parents, and we get descriptions like this: Rose Johnson was careless and was lazy, but she had been brought up by white folks and she needed decent comfort. Her white training had only made for habits, not for nature. Rose had the simple, promiscuous immorality of the black people. ... Melanctha Herbert was a graceful, pale yellow, intelligent, attractive negress. She had not been raised like Rose by white folks but then she had been half made with real white blood. And it gets worse too, but I'll save you the indignity and indignation of reading it. The descriptions get repeated a lot too. Stein is fond of repetitions. They seem to be her main literary device. I was telling myself that this was written in 1909, and that at least we have a POC protagonist here, and wasn't Stein supposed to be a lesbian, come on I wanted diversity here not racism! And since the book is under 200 pages long and I needed it for a reading challenge, I persevered. Briefly, it looked promising (if you manage to ignore the many uses of the n-word, all the n-words!). It appeared to be the story of a young girl coming to terms with her sexuality, searching. She was hanging out with men without really knowing what it was she wanted, or understanding what they wanted from her. Then she meets a woman who teaches her the ways of the world, and reading between the lines there was some intimate physical education too. But then they have a falling out, Melanchtia finds a man who isn't interested in her and decides that she must have him. Then the POV changes to that of the man, who wonders first if he loves her, then if she loves him, and starts to feel increasingly manipulated by her. For page after endless page, we get various repetitions (for Stein is fond of repetitions. They seem to be her main literary device) of them arguing about the right way to live, which generally ends like this: "I don't rightly see what you mean by what you say when you is saying the things that you is saying to me, Jeff. No, it certainly does seem to me you don't know very well, what you mean, when you are talking." "I don't ever say you ain't always right, Melanchta, when you really say things to me. Perhaps I see it all to be very different when I come to really see what you mean by what you are always saying to me." Later the point of view jumps back to Melanchta and back to the opening sequence and the story goes exactly nowhere, except to establish that good relationships are impossible because one person will always love and need the other less, and thereby have all the power. And then Melanchta dies. The third story, The Gentle Anna, is mercifully short and features a German woman who always does what she is told and never thinks to have any desires of her own. She slowly wastes away. And then she dies. Because Stein likes repetitions. They seem to be her main literary device. Gertrude Stein might very well be worth reading. I don't know, I haven't read anything else by her. But just skip this, her first work. I wish I had.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Eric Cartier

    This book almost broke me. Until I went back and found how many beautiful and/or stirring passages I had marked, I was planning to give it the dreaded single star. I started Three Lives last spring and enjoyed "The Good Anna," the relatively brief first story. Then the lengthy "Melanctha" confronted me. In this story, Stein's strangely structured sentences are constantly twisted into different configurations, so that what could be a breezy exchange between two characters becomes an unwieldy, rep This book almost broke me. Until I went back and found how many beautiful and/or stirring passages I had marked, I was planning to give it the dreaded single star. I started Three Lives last spring and enjoyed "The Good Anna," the relatively brief first story. Then the lengthy "Melanctha" confronted me. In this story, Stein's strangely structured sentences are constantly twisted into different configurations, so that what could be a breezy exchange between two characters becomes an unwieldy, repetitive block of text. The style maddened me, so much so that I couldn't read more than a couple of pages in one sitting. Stubbornly, I picked up and put down the book three or four times over the course of a month, eventually deciding to abandon it, something I never do with a novel. But this month, when I finished Ginsberg's Reality Sandwiches, I knew I had just 10 days until I started Joyce's Finnegans Wake in a class at the Newberry Library, so I decided to press on with the final 40 pages of Stein's slim book. I discovered that "Melanctha" wasn't as static as I believed it to be, and that "The Gentle Lena" was the best of the three stories. Stein's influence on Hemingway appeared sparkingly clear, too. I'm glad I returned to her work, but I won't be in a rush to wrestle with another one of her books anytime soon. Three passages from Three Lives I love: "Life was very easy always for this large and lazy Miss Mathilda, with the good Anna to watch and care for her and all her clothes and goods." "You see you always like to be talking just what you think everybody wants to be hearing from you, and when you are like that, Melanctha, honest, I certainly don't care very much to hear you, but sometimes you say something that is what you are really thinking, and then I like a whole lot to hear you talking." "'It's just this way with me always now Melanctha. You love me, and I don't care anything what you do or what you ever been to anybody. You don't love me, then I don't care any more about what you ever do or what you ever be to anybody.'"

  15. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    Technically I didn't read all of this, but I have decided will never finish Getrude Stein’s Three Lives - my life is just too damn short. The book consists of three short stories/novellas about three women. The first, which I read in its entirety was titled “The Good Anna” and was about a German woman who lived her life as a servant to a number of wealthy Americans. It was ok – I thought that Stein was somewhat condescending to her character, since she kept repeating how “good” and “simple” she w Technically I didn't read all of this, but I have decided will never finish Getrude Stein’s Three Lives - my life is just too damn short. The book consists of three short stories/novellas about three women. The first, which I read in its entirety was titled “The Good Anna” and was about a German woman who lived her life as a servant to a number of wealthy Americans. It was ok – I thought that Stein was somewhat condescending to her character, since she kept repeating how “good” and “simple” she was, and the text was ridiculously repetitive, which I guess is Stein’s style, but overlooking that I could see how it was conscious effort to use a certain affected style to capture (what Stein perceived as) a simple life. It wasn’t my kind of story, by any stretch of the imagination, but I understood what she was trying to do, and I could appreciate it as the product of its time. As an early attempt at modernism it had academic interest, at least. The second story is called “Melanctha.” It tells the tale of a young black woman trying to make her way in the world, and eventually (since I peeked at the ending) coming to no good. I could not finish this story. First of all, I found it to be uncomfortably racist. I have done some internet research on this point, and found this story should be lauded as one of the first books written by a white person that took a black character seriously as a human being, warts and all, and that Stein treats Melanctha with respect. That may be so, but I found the way she talked about black people in general to be so demeaning that I had a hard time turning the page. Maybe this was one of the first stories to take a black character seriously, but it is clear that Stein thinks white people are superior. For example, one character is mixed race, and Stein says, “… she had white blood, and that made her see clear… Her white blood was strong in her and she had grit and endurance and a vital courage.” Yuck. On top of that, the whole center of the story is a long, difficult to follow between Melanctha and her quasi-boyfriend, Dr. Campbell. Extremely repetitive and difficult to follow, I tried forever to get through and I finally just gave up. I tried to read a few pages of the third story, “The Gentle Lena,” but I ran out of steam. Sorry, Getrude. Sorry to go on at such length, but I hate giving up on books. I read this book forever – it was my commuting book and I do like to finish them, but after a week of listening to my ipod rather than reading, I decided that it was time to call it quits.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I started this with the thought that I would read books that came out exactly 100 years ago ... and all I can say is, sorry, Gertrude. Maybe this was before you met Alice and broadened your horizons. The first of these stories about everyday women was The Good Anna, a portrait of a single, hardworking, somewhat narrow minded German housekeeper who liked to serve large, lazy, monied women. OK, as far as it went, despite some very odd syntax. But then we get to the second story, about Melancthon He I started this with the thought that I would read books that came out exactly 100 years ago ... and all I can say is, sorry, Gertrude. Maybe this was before you met Alice and broadened your horizons. The first of these stories about everyday women was The Good Anna, a portrait of a single, hardworking, somewhat narrow minded German housekeeper who liked to serve large, lazy, monied women. OK, as far as it went, despite some very odd syntax. But then we get to the second story, about Melancthon Herbert, and we begin to get sentences like this: "Rose Johnson laughed when she was happy but she had not the wide, abandoned laughter that makes the warm broad glow of negro sunshine." "Melanctha's father was a big black virile negro. He only came once in a while to where Melanctha and her mother lived, but always that pleasant, sweet-appearing, pale yellow woman, mysterious and uncertain and wandering in her ways, was close in sympathy and thinking to her big black virile husband." And so forth and so on. I'm willing for literary criticism's sake to make allowances for different mores and sensibilities of a different time, but this writing and these characters were just not interesting enough to make it worth my time to slog through the barely adulterated racism of Ms. Stein.

  17. 5 out of 5

    twrctdrv

    (my god the negative reviews for this) Three Lives is Gertrude Stein's first published work and it is an experimental work. It attempts to tell the inner lives of three women in a unique way that, simply put, repeats everything as often and as awkwardly as possible. There are at times simply lists of general adjectives describing characters. They are good, strong, caring, and gentle. We are told in plain terms what characters are thinking much more than we are told what they are doing, but we sti (my god the negative reviews for this) Three Lives is Gertrude Stein's first published work and it is an experimental work. It attempts to tell the inner lives of three women in a unique way that, simply put, repeats everything as often and as awkwardly as possible. There are at times simply lists of general adjectives describing characters. They are good, strong, caring, and gentle. We are told in plain terms what characters are thinking much more than we are told what they are doing, but we still always feel as if we are at a distance from the characters. None of these detract from the stories, as we are given three life stories (look at that title!) in the end of which we know everything we can about who the characters are, what happens to them, and their reactions. In this respect, Three Lives is a successful experiment. So why only three stars? While the experiments work, the stories themselves aren't that interesting. For example, while Melanctha works as an experiment, at points the story drags on simply because there are parts in the story that would have dragged on whatever way the book was written.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    If you want a small taste of Stein's style, try reading The Good Anna, which is a very manageable length. If you like it, brace yourself, and go for Melanctha. You will probably throw the book at the wall before you are through, but hang in there. It's all worth it in the end. If you want a small taste of Stein's style, try reading The Good Anna, which is a very manageable length. If you like it, brace yourself, and go for Melanctha. You will probably throw the book at the wall before you are through, but hang in there. It's all worth it in the end.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Crito

    Coming out of the pores of this work is a writer in full control of her craft. Gertrude Stein is coming from a place of high concept, with the goal of writing pieces that read the way someone trained in art would view a painting. It starts with the broad overview and then focuses on individual parts, seeing where the lines lead, where certain colors are used, etc. Of course these are not paintings, these are stories; but they’re not quite stories, but “lives”. When you think of your life you thi Coming out of the pores of this work is a writer in full control of her craft. Gertrude Stein is coming from a place of high concept, with the goal of writing pieces that read the way someone trained in art would view a painting. It starts with the broad overview and then focuses on individual parts, seeing where the lines lead, where certain colors are used, etc. Of course these are not paintings, these are stories; but they’re not quite stories, but “lives”. When you think of your life you think of a broad all-encompassing picture rather than “this and then this and then this”, you think of the traits that define you, the things you do consistently, the people that are important to you, and moments (but not necessarily narratives) that either forged or illustrated the way you are. And it’s often all muddled together and colored with a particular subjective shade, all to fit the portrait you have of yourself. Stein sets out to write three such portraits and display them as a complimentary triptych. Naturally it follows that the writing itself conforms to this particular composition focused setup. You see the word “repetition” thrown around a lot but here it means something different than usual. It certainly isn’t like a high schooler padding their five paragraph essay, there is form and function to it here. The writing is itself a repetition of Henry James, with everything clean and exact about his writing but stripped of everything he did to beautify it, which results in a stark and uncanny type of prose. When you read something like Beckett it's obvious right away that it's being experimental, but here it's hidden in plain view. You only organically start recognizing the way Stein takes various words and phrases and repeats them in different contexts once you've sunk your feet into it, and the more specific aspects of her prose come later still. Like the way her characters are addressed by name far more often than pronoun, or how the people relating to one character in a certain way all have the same first initial, and then the initial switches on another character. Even further is how words that were important in one story show up in very specific ways in another. People don't normally act or speak the way they do in this, everything is presented to be impressionistic rather than adhering to realism, but calling back to Henry James, it presents itself in realistic style. Perverting stark realistic writing into something amazing, subtle, and strange like Gertrude Stein does is inspired, and also probably the reason why so many people misread this work, or feel put off by the uncanny valley feeling it emanates. And that odd feeling is exactly what Stein uses to sell her main ideas. It's an impressionistic work after all, it thrives on blurred shades of reality, and that gets you right in the head of her characters. There's so much relatable feeling that comes across in these stories and characters despite how they at the same time feel so eerie and alien. The stories mostly focus on wielding and relinquishing power, being free and being snared. In her greatest repetition, Stein makes one story a repetition of a Flaubert story, which then gets morphed and remolded into these very American themes by making it instead about German immigrants in America. Stein has a parallel in Joyce in how they both left their home countries but used that distance to ruminate on what was at the heart of their homelands, warts and beauty and all (though after that and "modernism" their similarities end). I could see that maybe on its face, there wouldn't be anything that much of note in Three Lives (aside perhaps from the blunt depictions of race and homosexuality), someone not tuned in could dismiss it as a bunch of meandering melodrama with some blank stuttering prose. The plot doesn't blurb well. However, it's accounting for the overall compositional concept Stein was working with that really makes this a pretty incredible work. Everything is bewildering but everything is placed with purpose, which makes for some rich rereading. You don't get books this original in this kind of way that often, and if you're willing to approach it on those terms it will really open itself to you. Strong recommendation.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    “Three Lives” was written in 1909 in an experimental but direct modernist style that at times is quite repetitive. Each of the three separate stories is set in the same fictional town near Baltimore around the turn of the century and each follows the lives of three working class girls throughout their lives. Although I did not enjoy the novel, “Three Lives” by Gertrude Stein is a book that I can recommend reading for a couple of reasons. The novel is quite short and bleak but with a purpose. The “Three Lives” was written in 1909 in an experimental but direct modernist style that at times is quite repetitive. Each of the three separate stories is set in the same fictional town near Baltimore around the turn of the century and each follows the lives of three working class girls throughout their lives. Although I did not enjoy the novel, “Three Lives” by Gertrude Stein is a book that I can recommend reading for a couple of reasons. The novel is quite short and bleak but with a purpose. The fact that there is very little dialogue or drama in any of the stories made the plot feel deterministic. Think of Thomas Hardy with the drama dialed down to a 1. In other words, I was not surprised by much that happened to anyone in the stories but I believe Stein did this intentionally. The drawback is that the characters could have been more interesting. Despite these drawbacks, the stories are memorable perhaps because of their almost pre-ordained like destinies. The characters also stand out because Stein had the characters repeating the same inner thoughts over and over again so there is little question as to their motivations. Stein also did address some moral issues of the time including male and female homosexuality that was quite original. Lastly, since the novel is more than a century old, there is a history lesson here.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    I've been reading some of Stein's essays, which are pretty interesting. And I read a William Gass essay about 3 Lives, which was also pretty interesting, and I thought, well, why not? Why not? Because this book is not particularly interesting. Gass reports reading it in one fevered sitting, then re-reading it obsessively, so deep was his ardor and fascination for the language. I can imagine that, I guess, if it were about one sixth as long (i.e., the length of an average Stein essay). Instead, i I've been reading some of Stein's essays, which are pretty interesting. And I read a William Gass essay about 3 Lives, which was also pretty interesting, and I thought, well, why not? Why not? Because this book is not particularly interesting. Gass reports reading it in one fevered sitting, then re-reading it obsessively, so deep was his ardor and fascination for the language. I can imagine that, I guess, if it were about one sixth as long (i.e., the length of an average Stein essay). Instead, it's Flaubert with more repetition and an intentionally restricted vocabulary. That's fine. It's important historically. But after I finished (skimming) the last life, I re-read the Gass essay. I would much, much rather read the Gass essay, because his writing (in that essay) is better than Stein's (in this text). That said, Gass is a pretty high bar, and I can imagine returning to 3 Lives later in my life. Perhaps. Perhaps I'd rather just read other bits of Stein, like her essays.

  22. 5 out of 5

    ericka

    Some thoughts: context matters. Don't read Stein, and especially Three Lives, unless you know what you're getting into, because after the 743th "certainly" you'll certainly want to kill everyone in this book and you'll certainly want to kill everyone around you and please god let it end with the "certainly"s, please, Melanctha darling, please. Don't, also, "read" this via Walter Zimmerman's 1988 audio book. It's excruciating in the most literal sense of the word. It was the eighties and I'm sure Some thoughts: context matters. Don't read Stein, and especially Three Lives, unless you know what you're getting into, because after the 743th "certainly" you'll certainly want to kill everyone in this book and you'll certainly want to kill everyone around you and please god let it end with the "certainly"s, please, Melanctha darling, please. Don't, also, "read" this via Walter Zimmerman's 1988 audio book. It's excruciating in the most literal sense of the word. It was the eighties and I'm sure Zimmerman is a fine human being but he ruins everything. And because I did listen to Zimmerman's reading, obliged as I was to multitask my way though this assignment, I feel unqualified to rate this book: the presentation unfairly and dramatically undercuts the prose itself while also denying me the ability to skim over a "Melanctha darling" or two. In conclusion: read Three Lives responsibly.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Miguel

    Mesmerizing prose and thought provoking content, Three Lives is a masterwork of modernist fiction. Engaging with the limited syntactical toolbox that Stein employs is as much fun as coming to understand the arch of these three stories. The novel is a bonified classic.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Worst thing I've ever read Worst thing I've ever read

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jane Upshall

    Three boring lives should be the title .

  26. 5 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    Faute de pouvoir donner cinq étrons, je le donne une étoile. The role of a critic is not to judge but to help others appreciate the work of literature. It is too easy to find fault. To illuminate the better points of a difficult piece of work requires skill, diligence and often a certain level of erudition. This much said, "Three Lives" is a dreadful work by an author remarkably lacking in talent. My sympathy does to those GR members who were forced to read it as students. Gertrude Stein grew up i Faute de pouvoir donner cinq étrons, je le donne une étoile. The role of a critic is not to judge but to help others appreciate the work of literature. It is too easy to find fault. To illuminate the better points of a difficult piece of work requires skill, diligence and often a certain level of erudition. This much said, "Three Lives" is a dreadful work by an author remarkably lacking in talent. My sympathy does to those GR members who were forced to read it as students. Gertrude Stein grew up in the era of Jim Crow and scientific racism which had a disastrous effect on this book which is comprised of two tales filled with nasty stereotypic images of German-Americans and a third with appalling racist comments about Afro-Americans. Stein was a liberal and anti-fascist so it is hard to conclude that she actually supported segregation and discrimination against ethnic minorities. Nonetheless, she attaches an excessive importance to the role that genetics and cultural background have on the moral character of the individual. The three stories are revolting. To compound the problems created by Stein's twisted world-view, her writing style is absolutely painful. To highlight the simple-mindedness of her racially and culturally inferior characters, she uses excessiveness repetition and restatement. A final weakness, in the collection is Stein's inability to find creative ways to dispose of her long-suffering and downtrodden heroines. All three die at the end of diseases. In one case tuberculosis is the killer. In the other two, Stein does not specify which maladie has brought the heroine's book to an end. Simply put "Three Lives" is excruciating to read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Scot

    I have always been intrigued by Gertrude Stein and her Lost Generation expat comrades, and I have enjoyed reading some of her poetry, autobiography/memoir, and experimental fiction in the past. I needed something to pass the time while riding a commuter train, so when I chanced upon a copy of this, her first published book which she wrote in 1905-06 and published in 1909, I decided to give it a go. It consists of biographical sketches of three different women. The first, "The Good Anna," runs 50 I have always been intrigued by Gertrude Stein and her Lost Generation expat comrades, and I have enjoyed reading some of her poetry, autobiography/memoir, and experimental fiction in the past. I needed something to pass the time while riding a commuter train, so when I chanced upon a copy of this, her first published book which she wrote in 1905-06 and published in 1909, I decided to give it a go. It consists of biographical sketches of three different women. The first, "The Good Anna," runs 50 pages, the second, "Melanctha," runs 101 pages, and the third, "The Gentle Lena," runs 27 pages. Anna is a hardworking German servant girl who spends her life caring for others, including animals, but rarely gets back for all she gives--in part because she always helps those who cannot or will not repay and in part because she is testy, grouchy, and set in her ways. Her story was the most interesting, compelling, and touching of the three. Melanctha is a mulatto, whose life is driven by uncontrollable passions she inherited from her Negro ancestors--the racist and ethnic stereotypes of Stein's day were very influential on her outlook in these areas, despite her commitment to the avant garde and alternative lifestyles. Lena lacks will and drive, and seems to be a victim of others manipulating her entire life, as she goes along, like a sheep or a cow, with whatever those around her suggest, and she lives a dreary sad existence. Stein's experimentation with repetition as a literary device begins to appear in all these pieces, but least so in the first, which is perhaps why I liked it the best. The repetition in "Melanctha" becomes excruciatingly difficult to endure, as page after page drags on with theoretical musings about love and sex, but all in the most vague and unclear generalities supposedly shared between two horny people as dialogue, so although the plot might sound sensational, particularly for its day--Melanctha is a hot bisexual who works her way through a host of lovers but can't seem to find satisfaction--it is painfully boring to read. I had to force myself to keep going. I understand what a great influence Stein is on literary modernism, but that didn't help: the repetition became numbing. Anna is a lesbian, Melanctha a bisexual, and although Lena births several children, there is no evidence in her story that she has any sexual desire or interest whatsoever. No doubt Stein is working through her own sexual orientation and social needs, and doing some groundbreaking work on more openly addressing the range of sexual options and activities that truly existed in her world, but all in all, I would not recommend this book for reading. I did, however, enjoy browsing through the supplemental materials included as I read the Bedford Cultural Edition edited by Linda Wagner-Smith. There I reviewed some of Charlotte Perkins Gilman on women and economics, Freud on homosexuality, S. Weir Mitchell on neurasthenia, William Osler on 19th century medicine, and the poetry of Oscar Wilde. I found the supplements much more entertaining and educational that the book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    It's difficult not to lapse into parody when discussing Stein's prose. Others here have already done so, and I shouldn't begrudge them for doing so, if they didn't enjoy Stein's writing and want to amuse themselves, but I do feel that urge to satirize is indicative of a hasty dismissal of the book itself. It's lazy to make fun. To believe that Stein is, by unspoken diktat, a bad writer, in writing as she does, is especially ignorant. This is clearly something different, something new. It lacks t It's difficult not to lapse into parody when discussing Stein's prose. Others here have already done so, and I shouldn't begrudge them for doing so, if they didn't enjoy Stein's writing and want to amuse themselves, but I do feel that urge to satirize is indicative of a hasty dismissal of the book itself. It's lazy to make fun. To believe that Stein is, by unspoken diktat, a bad writer, in writing as she does, is especially ignorant. This is clearly something different, something new. It lacks the pyrotechnics, the sprawling phallic eruption of language found in Joyce or Pound, but this is absolutely Modernism. There's nothing grandiose here and a lot of it is tedious. In some ways Melanctha is the best story - the conversations between Jeff Campbell and Melanctha are realistic like little else I've ever read. They're also unbearably dull in that realistic sense. The reader sees how the relationship between the two will break down, but it doesn't happen for another fifteen or twenty pages of meandering, repetitive argument, because that's how it is. When differences become intractable, people just repeat themselves, they speak too much, trying to drown out the basic truth beginning to separate them. I appreciate Melanctha but it was a difficult read, too much so for me to rate this book any higher, although I loved The Good Anna and The Gentle Lena, and want to seek out more Stein soon. The Making of Americans seems daunting, but what little extracts I've read are strikingly honest, all the more powerful for being buried beneath layers of austere prose. I need a little rest now, but when I am stronger, I will return to Stein.

  29. 4 out of 5

    B. P. Rinehart

    This book of three stories is an interesting piece. It was written by the first significant female writer of the modernist movement and the 20th century at large. Three Lives contains three different stories about women, with the second story, Melanctha, being the highlight and the size of a standard novella. Now this book has a habit of turning some people off because of its style and the content in the second story. The oral story-telling style that Stein seems to be trying to transcribe to the This book of three stories is an interesting piece. It was written by the first significant female writer of the modernist movement and the 20th century at large. Three Lives contains three different stories about women, with the second story, Melanctha, being the highlight and the size of a standard novella. Now this book has a habit of turning some people off because of its style and the content in the second story. The oral story-telling style that Stein seems to be trying to transcribe to the page in this work still shocks readers over 100 years later. This is a very early example of the type of literature that would be championed by James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Many of the "lost generation" writers gathered at Gertrude Stein's home after WWI and it became the literary hot-spot of the inter-war years. I felt I had to read this book in order to better appreciate Woolf, who is the more read female modernist writer, and to see where modernist literature emerged from following the example of Marcel Proust. This book is an interesting but not easy, read of what experimental literature was looking to at the turn of the century.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Moni Smith

    Reading this was slow torture. I made it to page 37 before I couldn't take anymore. If I was still in college and forced to read it for class I would finish. But, thank goodness, my college days are long behind me and I don't have to play by those rules. Reading this was slow torture. I made it to page 37 before I couldn't take anymore. If I was still in college and forced to read it for class I would finish. But, thank goodness, my college days are long behind me and I don't have to play by those rules.

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