Category Archives: Gertrude Stein

Thoughts: Ida

IdaIda by Gertrude Stein
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Because of Stein’s stylistic deviations, I’m lead to believe that when explaining a “truth”, one must consider the articulation as importantly as the “truth” itself. Despite agreeing with this credo, since a truth, in a way, is simultaneously constructed and conveyed; in the way it is presented and thusly understood, I don’t much like Stein’s style. I can appreciate it for its purpose, but in separating the quality of the goal and the vehicle, I think even she can admit the possibility of her failure; as if she opened up the validity of any style and, upon the reader’s discernment, any style can be as bogus as the next. Or on the contrary, any “truth” can be as bogus as the next. But this, after all, might lend much more credibility, not to mention pomp, to style.

I imagine Stein writing this novella and instead of rewriting it, she guts it; removing chronology, places, descriptors. There are so many holes left for the reader to fill. I wouldn’t be able to describe much about Ida’s relationship to Andrew or about Ida herself other than what is most likely an elementary observation that she is somewhat of a “Yes-Woman” who travels and marries at the whims of others, or because of her inability or choice to refrain from saying no.

I will say that her writing is simple. Not just in her word choice or sentence structure, but in her thinking. Things that don’t happen, happen. People are understood by where they are NOT from, by what they DON’T do, etc. For example: “It is so easy not to be a mother. This too happened to Ida” (p 57). Or, “Once upon a time all who had anywhere to go did not go. This is what they did” (p 62). Rather than complicating or dramatizing the image of these characteristics, negatives are made to serve character construction in this way for the sake of clarity.

At first, her style seems like reading from right to left, down to up, with a lack of traditional rhythm; like a long poem whose stanzas are crammed together in paragraphs. Perhaps on future re-reads, I’ll find more to appreciate in her style and understand more about the plot and characters.


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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Gertrude Stein


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