11 February 2005

on gertrude stein and the judicious edit.

this book, written by Gertrude Stein and first published in 1933, is one of those cathartic oxymorons that has been a long-time favourite.

Ms. Stein wrote this book about her lover (Alice B. Toklas) and their life amidst the bohemians of Paris in the late 1800's. Picasso, Matisse, Rousseau, the whole lot. she writes from a first person perspective as Alice B. Toklas, and records all indications of herself in the third person.

I remember hearing, somewhere or another, that the publication of said book caused an uproar at the time amongst Ms. Stein's friends, who felt mispresented, insulted, or or just plain ignored in her literary masterpiece. they felt like she had crossed the line of good taste and privacy, all for a paltry writing project. she had misrepresented Real people as fictional characters. what right did she have to give Picasso a green sweater during his blue period, or to call Juan Gris a "raw, effusive youth" when perhaps the rest really found him quite Boring, thank you very much. It's Just Not Done. the subject of "others" is reserved for gossip sessions around the water cooler, not for the yellowed pages of an early 20th century penguin classic.

all this gives me pause.

in our vast life experiences, only two things stand out about people we have known- about "others": the things that made them unique, and our emotional connection to them. i can't even begin to count how many times people i regard as my closest friends have commented on my "new" (3 year old) tattoo, my relations (long defunct) with some lad or another, my lifelong (changed yesterday) aspirations.
people don't Remember me (or anyone else, for that matter), from one encounter to the next; they remember Their Perception of me.

Perception seems like this proverbial bridge. on one side lie our rational views of people, on the other, how we see them relative to our emotional needs.

Rational observation sees others from their outside in,subjective, but empirical. rational observation is about surface, actions, reactions.

our emotional needs, however, filter how we see people from our inside out...not objective either, and rational thought has long since made a modest exit for better times.

how does one Accurately record one's observations, then. and how does one deal with one's "others", without transgressing boundaries of privacy and respect?

usually, it's not a problem. that's what those cute little locked books on chapters' gift shelves are for....

but what happens when you want an audience, when the need for feedback, for interest beyond your own, exceeds your journalistic tendencies? what happens, dear readers, when you decide to forecast all daily trivialities and cathartic revelations on ...(clap of thunder in the distance)...a BLOG?
the public, the reader, the Stranger,reads about people, places, things, that they are in no position to judge. they only have the Truth the author gives them. hopefully, caveats, reminders, and renunciations in the prologue force readers to read with care...to be conscious of the limitations on their own perspective.

but is this enough?

judicious editing assumes that it isn't.
judicious editing respects Every potential reader.
judicious editing Loves every character it touches on.
judicious editing is a downright Necessity.


Anonymous said...

...author works about otters instead of others, or as gertrude herself proclaimed, "i write for myself and strangers". perceptions, when referring to viewpoints in relations, are only safe as topics for discussion when it is a very sturdy, time-tested bridge between two... perhaps the only real and "safe" discussion are steps to be taken in a similar direction between now and what is to come, i.e. the future, instead of what stems between two points that are/were always changing ... emotions have no place in such vision, they are mere pinpoints in a moment lacking momentum...

steflenk said...

perceptions may only be safe with sturdy bridges, but they Happen. before the bridge is ever built. that's the difficulty, that's the danger.
not sure what you mean about "safe" discussion as a step in similiar direction etc...
and, alas, emotions Are momentum, i think. more than pinpoints. they're the drive itself.

kim said...

meditation drives better than emotion, sees more clearly, IS truth, emotion is filtered through the mind... the safest bridge is silence... leading no w here...

steflenk said...

i don't believe the safest bridge is always Silence. i Utterly don't believe that. although i understand where you are coming from, and in your context that might be true.
i have trouble with silence, but it isn't Only the trouble of keeping silent, it is the trouble of dealing
Very Very often with people who feel like they know better than me what i Don't need to know. of assuming that communication is not necessary, and of assuming that silence itself is not communication.
which is Bullshit.
sometimes, silence is Not the answer.

John said...


If you're going to blog you've got to be 100% happy being misunderstood, because that's the only thing that's guaranteed to happen at some point. It can usually be rectified, but once you're on public display, you're bound to lose some control over readers' interpretations of who you are and what you mean.

Don't all relationships involve processes of refining and redefining conclusions about one another?

steflenk said...


what an awesome and apt posting.
too true.

i think relationships (proper) aren't the Only thing that one is obliged to refine and redefine.
the more comfortable i get with writing again, it feels like drawing, which is/has/will always be nothing But a process of refining/defining.

how funny that no matter where you go, there you are. school, art, bed, blogging. same issues. same glee. hm.

it's odd. other people are odd.
(chuckle) stef lenk. ocs incarnate.