White, Ray Lewis, The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Gertrude Stein. Writings 1903-1932. Ed. Catharine R. Stimpson and Harriet Chessman. Library of America, 1998. 941 pp. $40.00; Writings 1932-1946. 844 pp. $40.00.
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) would be pleased to have her writings collected as volumes 99 and 100 in the prestigious Library of America series of masterworks, but she would quibble at being published by the Library only after works of a score of competing writers. Indeed, Stein ranked herself above any other American author except perhaps Henry James and argued that had her work been published in timely fashion at its creation, starting soon after 1900, she would have been the first leading modernist and more important than the latecomers Joyce, Pound, and Eliot.
Proper publication was always Stein's dilemma, for until the early 1930s her writings when published at all appeared from vanity presses subsidized by the author and her friends or from journals with editors friendly to the formidable American who chose to live in Paris. Three Lives (1909), Tender Buttons (1914), Geography and Plays (1921), The Making of Americans (1925), and the self-published Plain Edition volumes of the late 1920s and early 1930s thus made Stein available to the cognoscenti but not to the literate masses. …