Friday, June 17, 2011

Everything is coming up roses (a rose is a rose)

Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein at home (by Man Ray)

In Everybody's Autobiography, Gertrude Stein famously summed up a visit to Oakland, the city where she spent her formative years, by writing that "Whenever you get there, there is no there there." Stein's oft-misinterpreted and typically gnomic line refers to the disappearance of her childhood home as much perhaps as a particular sense of cultural dislocation that a long-time resident of Paris must have experienced upon visiting California in the 1930s. Stein, of course, was not just any Parisian, but one who, along with first her brother Leo and later her partner Alice B. Toklas, famously surrounded herself with artists now recognized as the revolutionaries of modern art, including Picasso, Cezanne, and Matisse.

Were it possible for the ever-confident, self-assured, and endlessly and eagerly photographed Stein to return to California now, seventy years after her trip through Oakland, she may find herself inclined to revise her opinion of our lack of thereness, if only due to the happy accident that has San Francisco (Toklas' home town) on the verge of Steinian delirium. Between the Contemporary Jewish Museum's contextualizing Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories and the SF MOMA's The Steins Collect exhibits, it seems we're in for a summer of breathlessly unpunctuated excitement.

Or maybe this feverish excitement is limited to Green Apple, surrounded as we are by what seems like a blessed deluge of books about, relating to, or touching upon our most famous literary emigrant. Although not all of the following books are tied to the concurrent exhibits, the serendipitous coincidence (not to mention seeing Stein's mug plastered all over town) has me eyeing my copy of The Making of Americans with a sense of guilt. (Although I could cop out--if listening to a 913 page book could be considered a cop out--and sit back while Gregory Laynor's performs the book for me.) (Do yourself a favor and listen to page 906.)

If any of this has made you feel the urge to brush up on Little Gertie*, take a look at the books below: from Atak's beautiful (and difficult to keep in stock) interpretation of Stein's story "Ada" to the hefty companion to The Steins Collect, I'm sure you'll find something in which to dip your toe before moving on to sentences like
Once upon a time there was no dog if there had been a dog nobody wept.

Once upon a time there was no name and if any one had a name nobody could cover a name with a name. But nobody wept except somebody who had not that name wept.

Atak's illustrated version of Stein's Ada, her first "word portrait" and a significant artistic breakthrough, is a bright and bold interpretation well-suited to the subject. Since I'm entirely ignorant of printing techniques, I'll quote from the book's publisher:
Atak’s unique style of illustration harks back to the days of chromolithography. As with these early printing techniques, on every page of the book each print layer is meticulously created by hand directly onto film. There are only a handful of artists left still using this technique and the result is inimitable. The book has the look and feel of something created in the early days of printmaking.

The Steins Collect is the companion book to the MOMA show. Read more about it on the Yale Press Log, which also informs us that the Press will be reviving two more of Gertrude Stein's work this fall, perhaps turning this summer of Stein into a veritable revival.

Steins' The World is Round is out-of-print (although you can view the edition illustrated by Clement Hurd--he of Goodnight Moon fame--on Flickr), but To Do, a follow-up to that book is a nice consolation, as consolations go. Molly explains why we're so infatuated with this one:
This whimsical book begins with the reassuring fact that everyone has a name and a birthday, taking a dizzying journey through the alphabet and the names therein. Never published in Stein's lifetime because it was deemed too obscure for children and adults, Yale University Press thankfully saw it as perfectly suited for both.

In 1906, Harriet Lane Levy was convinced to move to Paris from San Francisco by her friend Alice B. Toklas. Finding herself suddenly immersed in "in a strange world peopled by artists who spoke a language she could not understand--a colorful world that she could only remotely observe in black and white," Levy compiled these brief reminiscences which were until recently tucked away at the Bancroft Library. A fine book capturing an exciting era.

And, of course, there are the books by Stein herself, if you're so inclined.


* "Little Gertie is a little schnatterer. She talks all day long and so plainly. She outdoes them all. She's such a round little pudding, toddles around the whole day and repeats everything that's said or done." -- from a letter written by Stein's father, quoted in William Gass' essay on "Gertrude Stein and the Geography of the Sentence" (in The World Within the Word)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Inner Richmond

My originally casual interest in photography somehow mutated into an expensive compulsion over the last few years. For the better part of this time I have been employed at Green Apple Books & Music. When I find myself excited to see how some photographs are going to turn out but still have some shots left on the roll, it is not uncommon for me to bring my camera to work and try to finish it off, wandering around Clement and the avenues on breaks. Fortunately this neighborhood is a massive pile up of personality and culture condensed into a tiny space, so I am never lacking of subtly odd or amusing sights. As if there was any more need for reasons to stop by for a visit.

Chinese New Year Celebrations
These women were all trying to build 'perfect dozens' at the grocery store, which I think is totally crazy and I love it.
How do they make dogs like this?
This last picture was was taken by my coworker, billed as 'A' on this blog. I was lacking my camera that day, but we agreed that the little tub was just begging to have his photo taken.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Father's Day is Almost Here...

That's right, it's time to do some last minute shopping for those of you who love, or even kind of like, your fathers.

Father's Day is June 19th and we have some great ideas for $40 to $70 from TASCHEN.

First is Albertus Seba's Cabinet of Natural Curiosities. This is one of the 18th century's greatest natural history achievements and remains one of the most prized natural history books of all time. Though scientists of his era often collected natural specimens for research purposes, Amsterdam-based pharmacist Albertus Seba was unrivaled in his passion. TASCHEN has reproduced this amazing work in a trade cloth edition for only $39.98.

Another book from TASCHEN that has been flying off the shelves since Christmas is The Book of Symbols. Authored by writers from the fields of psychology, religion, art, literature, and comparative myth, The Book of Symbols combines original and incisive essays about particular symbols with representative images from all parts of the world and all eras of history. The highly readable texts and over 800 beautiful full-color images come together in a unique way to convey hidden dimensions of meaning.

Green Apple is offering this book also for $39.98...

And if you really love your father you won't mind spending $69.98 on Stanley Kubrick's "Napoleon": the Greatest Movie Never Made...

For 40 years, Kubrick fans and film buffs have wondered about the director's mysterious unmade film on Napoleon Bonaparte. Slated for production immediately following the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick’s "Napoleon" was to be at once a character study and a sweeping epic, replete with grandiose battle scenes featuring thousands of extras. To write his original screenplay, Kubrick embarked on two years of intensive research; with the help of
dozens of assistants and an Oxford Napoleon specialist, he amassed an unparalleled trove of research and preproduction material, including approximately 15,000 location scouting photographs and 17,000 slides of Napoleonic imagery. No stone was left unturned in Kubrick's nearly-obsessive quest to uncover every piece of information history had to offer about Napoleon. But alas, Kubrick’s movie was not destined to be: the film studios, first M.G.M. and then United Artists, decided such an undertaking was too risky at a time when historical epics were out of fashion.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Reading

Andre Kertesz, On Reading

Struggling with finding a suitable book for your summer reading? Googling "summer reading 2011" brings back over 250,000,000 results, which would take months to wade through. If you don't want to waste your summer sorting through all those lists, you can check out our recommendations or some of the lists I've highlighted below.