Deb Olin Unferth on Gertrude Stein

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“Once Mabel Dodge’s little boy said he would like to fly from the terrace to the lower garden. Do, said Mabel.”—Gertrude Stein

I loved that she discarded the comma. I loved that she made fun of the War. I loved that she loved to repeat herself—ten thousand times. I loved that, for her, narrative was like throwing a net around a sound, that to record the patter of a person told you all about them. I loved that she never had children. I loved that she was a lesbian. I loved that she lived through both Wars in Paris, apparently not noticing she was Jewish. I loved that she wrote so so so much and when no one would publish her, I loved that she published herself. I loved her philosophical games. I loved that she wrote Alice’s autobiography. I loved her misuse of capitals. I loved that her tone was mocking, bright, funny, wrong. I loved that she wrote everything outrageously, from tiny Tender Buttons to monstrous Making of Americans. I loved that she wrote a mystery that started with such electric promise and slowly came to pieces—unclear crimes, no one to solve them, too many suspects.

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Deb Olin Unferth is the author of the memoir Revolution, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and a New York Times Critics Choice; the story collection Minor Robberies; and the novel Vacation, winner of the Cabell First Novel Award. Her work appears in Harper’s, The New York Times, McSweeney’s, The Boston Review, NOON, The Believer, Conjunctions, and elsewhere. She has received three Pushcart Prizes and a Creative Capital Grant for Innovative Literature.