logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: ba-paris
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-11-09 12:44
'The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas' by Gertrude Stein
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas - Gertrude Stein

If you start thinking too deep about Gertrude Stein's motivation and headspace in writing this book it's easy to lose yourself in a hall of mirrors. Stein — noted, notable, an influencer before #influencers were a thing — wrote this book "largely to amuse herself" [according to the back cover] in the persona of her partner Alice Toklas, but largely about herself. It is easy to find ways throughout the book that she seems to play with the form, frustrate expecatations, amuse herself, which makes it fun but can also feel like an inside joke, especially if you're not in on the game.

 

I was expecting to get away from the popular vision of Stein into the actual writing. I was knew little more than what I had seen read in Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, which was written much later, and seen in the movie Midnight in Paris, which presents a fan-fiction version of Stein, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and others in the Paris social circles of the time. Stein, played by Kathy Bates, comes across as a kind of oracle, a sought after voice of guidance who dashes off short, enigmatic quips to her cadre of famous artists and writers.

 

To my surprise, my image hasn't changed that much after reading this book. I imagine this is at least in part an effect of the playfulness, playing into the image that had been built of her. She shows us the same ultra-cool group around her, they all come to 27 rue de Fleurus for advice which is always more quizzical than practical. But when you expect intimacy, she changes the subject, when you expect to hear about art she cuts you off with a neologism, you're ready for more Picasso but she has already drifted to Picabia. 

 

The story constantly jumps from anecdote to anecdote, following thread forward through the years and back so that you lose track of the fact that the chapter that started 40 pages ago is supposed to be about 1907-1914. All her famous friends appear but rather than a revealing look, we get a glimpse and a quip. About Bebe Berard's paintings, she says, "they are almost something and then they are not." And Picabia, "although he has in a sense not a painter's gift he has an idea that has been and will be of immense value to all time." [I'll note that both these instances appear in the book attributed to Stein by Toklas.]

 

At the heart of my issue with this book, and the way it most conforms to the tell-all, is the assumption of a deep familiarity with the subject. Many things that are entirely uninteresting if it's some guy on the bus are suddenly newsworthy if it's done by Anne Hathaway. TMZ owes it's whole existance to this phenomenon and goofy sound effects. In more narrative stories, where the people are fictional or unknown, you would establish that connection between the reader and the principle characters, but in tell-alls and memoirs you can trade off the reader's existing connections to public figures.

 

Going back to Midnight in Paris, Owen Wilson [the only name I will ever use for any character he portrays] meets a man at the party who introduces himself as Scott Fitzgerald. He is dumbstruck and the audience is expected to be as well because it's assumed we all know who F. Scott Fitzgerald is. If we had given the name Charles Boyle it would have been a very strange scene, no person watching would have any reason to know why meeting this Charles guy was exciting.

 

So it is here at points. There are so many artists and wives and personalities that flit in and out and we get no characterization. Of course I was very interested in the Hemingway part not only because I like his work but because I know something of his biography. Picasso's work I really enjoy but I know little of his life so I didn't really know what to make of the events that happened to him. He is with Fernande, then he is with Eve and neither mean much to me. I am told Stein and Toklas like Fernande but that's about as high as the stakes get. I know almost nothing of Cezanne's biography though I love his painting, same with Matisse. Juan Gris and Braque, I know their names and a few pieces, and many I don't know at all. 

 

That is why the writing feels so unconnected and why it dragged so much at moments, it sometimes felt like random pages torn out of a notebook and mixed up, there is a story there but I don't have all the pieces to make sense of it. 

 

Adding to the slowness, Stein uses a conversational style, which here means following loose trains of thought and bouncing around between subjects and time periods. In my mind I could picture Toklas professionally lit for a documentary and just speaking for hours straight running through the notable events of her life with Stein. But it doesn't build to anything and the chapters run to about 50 pages so staying focused took some doing. 

 

That is a lot of complaining for a book I enjoyed fine and may revisit someday, probably when I have learned more about Picasso and the art scene in early 20th century Paris. If that is your focus, this is surely a must-read, but if not, I'm hoping there are other routes into Stein that are more inviting.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
quote 2017-11-08 18:02
[Gertrude Stein] always says she dislikes the abnormal, it is so obvious. She says the normal is so much more simply complicated and interesting.
Like Reblog Comment
review 2017-11-04 17:05
The Paris Secret
The Paris Secret - Karen Swan

 

An apartment hidden for 73 years and forbidden by the owner to be known to anyone, but why?

The children didn't even know about it until the apartment was broken into.

Once the apartment was revealed to the children, in comes Flora and Angus, well-known art dealers and auctioneers. And what a find in that apartment closed for 73 years...famous paintings, artifacts, and the home left as it had been when the family lived there.

Flora was in her domain and in her glory over this, but some things didn't seem right with the Vermeil family - the children were obnoxious, and their parents seemed excited but a bit disinterested in the apartment and its contents. Something else must be behind all of this.

We follow Flora as she investigates the contents of the apartment and the path of sales of the Renoir from the painter to each seller. She came to a standstill when she found out that a dealer who dealt with the Nazis was the last recorded owner of the Renoir. If that was where it ended, no one would want the painting. Then when Flora went to Vienna to meet someone who had the companion painting to the Renoir, another surprise awaited her.

Mystery, intrigue, and deceit abound in THE PARIS SECRET.

I truly enjoyed THE PARIS SECRET. It was a bit of mystery mixed in with history. I was impressed at how much research goes into checking the authenticity of paintings. It actually was quite fascinating along with the excitement of recognizing the names of famous painters.

This was my first book by Karen Swan and am sorry I have never read anything else by her. The story line is interesting, the writing is marvelous and very descriptive.

If you love Paris, drama, art, finding treasures in old buildings, and a bit of romance, THE PARIS SECRET won't disappoint.

The secret revealed in the ending pages was excellent. 5/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.  

Source: silversolara.blogspot.com
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-10-31 15:39
Unforgettable
The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah

This isn't a review. These are my quick early morning thoughts. The Nightingale is an unforgettable story written so well your able to completely immerse yourself in it. I never read the author notes or book club questions, but I read it all. This book took me some time to finish. I started listening to the audiobook last summer 2016. I think the size of the book put me off. I'm so happy I hunkered down and finished it. This is definitely a re-read and a book I will undoubtedly shove down everyones throat. However, it's as graphic as a slave narrative. Thank goodness I am a huge fan of both.

 

*

At 70% I started on my Kindle.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2017-10-26 15:41
You Never Know What Goes On Behind Closed Doors!!
Behind Closed Doors - B.A. Paris

Cons:  A few slow moments, but towards the end I felt it started to rush and slightly predictable.

 

Pros: I had no idea I would be in store for a crazy good, demented psychological treat.  Every page turned built up anticipation for the next page.  The way B.A. Paris sets the pages for a smooth, gentle ride....then immediately shifts gears to a psychotic roller coaster ride.  The chapters switched from past to present which helped me fully understand the main characters' personalities.  I was absorbed in every page due to the intense characterization and gripping plot.  

 

"You never know what goes on behind closed doors" is a true adage when describing this book.  On the outside everything looks perfect and on the inside everything is dark and evil.  I highly recommend Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris to all readers who enjoyed a fast paced psychological thriller.  This was my first time reading one of this author's novels and have since added another one of her thrillers, The Breakdown as no.1,500,000 on my TBR list.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?