Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gertrude Stein and some questions about modernism

I found this article over at Truthout the other day, which poses some troubling questions about Gertrude Stein's relationship to the Vichy regime in Occupied France. Although not strictly relevant to a blog about Finnegans Wake, this seems to be yet another member of the modernist movement who was a little too unbothered with Fascist ideology. The quote that made me think of adding this here was from a Professor Barbara Will, who has a new book out called Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Fa├┐ and the Vichy Dilemma:

The full story of the relationship of modernist writers to fascist and pro-fascist regimes is just beginning to be told and Stein offers a fascinating case study of this relationship.

Highly uninformed though I am, even I have heard about Ezra Pound's links to Fascism, and in a recent article in the New Yorker article, Louis Menand mentions that T.S. Eliot may have had a little too much interest in Fascism for his own good. I find myself wondering a bit about how I'm supposed to view their artistic work in this light, and whether this susceptibility might not be a flaw in the Modernist approach itself.

However, I'm reassured about Joyce by this article . Since I'm not a member of a qualified institution, I can't read the whole article--though perhaps some readers here might have different means. In any case, the abstract  itself pits Joyce against the likes of Wyndham Lewis and others in their misguided support for this thoroughly discredited system of government.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Yeah, I'm behind--not just with posting but with the book  itself. I'll try to correct that soon, but meanwhile, a longtime friend sent this message to me today. He's been reading The Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker, by David Boyer, and says:

One of my favorite passages occurs when the protagonist, a young, disillusioned former teacher is reading a western novel while he dries his sheets @ the laundromat. A young woman comes in to the laundromat and unloads her clothes from a guitar case:
When her clothes were in the washing machine she took Finnegans Wake from the case, crossed her booted legs, and began reading it. I snuck the western into my laundry bag. The girl was about halfway through the book and appeared unpuzzled by what she read. A page took her on the average of 45 sconds, which wasn't much more than what a page of the western took me. This was a remarkable girl. I decided that it would be worthwhile to marry her just so I coud watch her read Finnegans Wake with such style. I walked up to her, pointed at a washing machine, and said, "Riverruns circlesudsingly, don't you think?"
She looked at me blankly. "In the washing machine," I explained. She continued to look at me blankly and didn't say anything. I said, "It's sort of a bewilderfusing book, isn't it?"
She said, "Why don't you go back to your western?" and began to read again, humming.
I said, "If you're going to be so darned pretentious, at least you could be friendly."
"Go back to your western, little man."