REVIEW: Food by Gertrude Stein

I know I said I did not read books I didn’t enjoy. I know. I said that. And I truly believe I shouldn’t read books I don’t enjoy. But I have pledged to read all 50 of the boxed set of Penguin Modern Classics that I bought and this was number 08. It’s too early to cave so I had to read it.

This is probably the least enjoyable book I have completed. Ever. It’s ridiculous. It is truly just a jumble of words thrown together on pages that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. With deepest apologies to all those who love Gertrude Stein, I hated it and was delighted when I had forced my way through its seemingly endless 53 pages.

Let me give you an example. This is a complete example of one of the items in the book. The book’s name is Food and the title of this piece is, indeed, an item of food. If you can guess what it is then you are a better human than I. Here it is in its entirety.

“Very well very well, washing is old, washing is washing.

Cold soup, cold soup clear and particular and a principal a principal question to put into.”

There. That is it. The whole thing with all the punctuation etc exactly as it is printed in this volume.

Somebody please enlighten me. What the hell does any of it mean? It is just nonsense.

I’m going to give you another one, just so you can see I’m not exaggerating. Once again this is the complete piece without the title, which is another food item.

“Not a razor less, not a razor, ridiculous pudding, red and relet put in, rest in a slender go in selecting, rest in, rest in in white widening.”

Now, according to the blurb on the back of this small book “these glittering, fragmented, painterly portraits of food by the avant-garde pioneer Gertrude Stein are redolent of sex, laughter and the joy of everyday life”.

Oh are they? Or are they the literary version of the emperor’s new clothes?

I shall be loathe to revisit Gertrude Stein any time soon unless someone can provide me with a compelling reason why I should.

And in case anyone was wondering, the first example was entitled Veal and the second Cucumber.

I do not think anyone could be blamed for not guessing those.

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