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The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas Paperback – March 17, 1990

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (March 17, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067972463X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679724636
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Largely to amuse herself, [ Gertrude Stein ] wrote The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas in 1932...using as a sounding board her companion Miss Toklas, who had been with her for twenty-five years. It has been said that the writing takes on very much Miss Toklas' conversational style, and while this is true the style is still a variant of Miss Stein's conversation style. ...She usually insisted that writing is an entirely different thing from talking, and it is part of the miracle of this little scheme of objectification that she could by way of imitating Miss Toklas put in writing something of her own beautiful conversation. So that, aside from making a real present of her past, she created a figure of herself, established an identity a twin, a Doppelganger.... The book is full of the most lucid and shapely anecdotes, told in a purer and more closely fitting prose... than even Gide or Hemingway have ever commanded .... "

-- Donald Sutherland

"... The record of nearly thirty years of life in a fantastically changing Paris and else where -- a life passed in the most stimulating and important society."

-- Louis Bromfield

"... One of the richest, wittiest, and most irreverent [biographies] ever written."

-- William Troy

From the Inside Flap

Stein's most famous work; one of the richest and most irreverent biographies ever written.

Customer Reviews

Don't buy this edition.
Brian Agne
The most fascinating part of this work is seeing such great figures as Picasso and Hemingway through the eyes of Stein/Toklas.
And, that is what makes this book so very interesting to me.
Miami Bob

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) is a singularly problematic writer whose work is very difficult to describe. In 1902 Stein moved to France and spent most of her adult life in that country; upon arriving she was quickly caught up in the Paris arts scene and soon became one of the earliest champions of such artists as Picasso and Matisse. Under their influence, Stein sought to translate the various arts movements and styles that swirled around her into literary forms.

The result was an incredibly idiosyncratic body of work in which Stein tended to use language for the sake of language. Often described as stream of conciousness, Stein's work tends to divide readers and critics. Some greatly admire Stein; an equal number consider her a non-talent with a gift for self-promotion. Whatever the case, her writings proved unexpectedly influential in "high art" circles.

Stein, a lesbian, met Alice B. Toklas about 1907, and the two remained a couple until Stein's death. Those who knew Toklas through Stein's numerous social events describe her as a small, ordinary woman with a tendency to fade into the background; in a world made up of artists and their wives, Stein played the role of artist and Toklas played wife.

Published in 1933, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ALICE B. TOKLAS is often described as Stein's "most widely accessible" work. That is true only in the sense that Stein generally writes in a linear style and without the obvious word-games to which she was prone; the book is not typical of her work in either respect. On the other hand, it is extremely typical of Stein in terms of concept.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By "blissengine" on December 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
Gertrude Stein's playful and witty story of her life with Alice Toklas (told via the life story of Alice) chronicles nearly thirty years, up to 1932. Crackling with energy and zest, the story unfolds like conversation at a party where Picasso, Hemingway, Matisse, and others are in attendance, and the reader is introduced to them all in succession. Documenting not only their exciting life together, the book also takes us through the dangers of World War 1, as well as detailing Stein's writing activities. Ultimately, it is Gertrude Stein herself who shines throughout the book, through the lens of Toklas, and it is this portrait crisp and alive that makes this the most well-known of her works.
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39 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Calcara on September 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
"The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas" made Gertrude Stein a household name in America in the 1930s, and for good reason. This is Stein at her most accessible and I must highly suggest it for any first-time readers of this literary genius. The book has a light, breezy tone, interesting subject matter (Picasso & various renowned artists pop up throughout), and Stein's trademark intellectual brilliance. The device of using Toklas as an approach to Stein's life is certainly interesting and is responsible for some of the most entertaining passages. And this book is certainly entertaining, thanks to Stein's supreme wit and her clever descriptions of the people she interacts with and situations she finds herself in. I highly recommend this book, especially for those who haven't read Stein before. Her vivacity, wit, intelligence and skill are on display here in an accessible, classic work.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kassandra M. Perlongo on July 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
I do have a confession to make regarding Gertrude Stein. You may not know this but the woman is a genius. Why you may ask? Because she tells us this over and over and over again in the book. I do have to admit that at first I had to suppress the urge to shred this book/autobiography/memoir to shreds. I grew immensely jaded reading the raw prose with not a hint of of emotion throughout.

Thankfully, I eventually saw the light. It finally clicked.

Gertrude Stein was a woman in the time of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Matisse, Ezra Pound and T.S.Eliot. Quite simply she needed to stand out as a literary figure. Historians would later call this artistic time period the Roarin' Twenties. Stein needed a way to disconnect with other prominent figures and still remain in the literary circle. She did this by well executing this book.

Though seemingly told through the perspective of her partner Alice B. Toklas, truly we are hearing Stein's. Her memories of meeting fascinating artists and writers in Paris are mind boggling. She adores the Parisian culture but also loves to be an American. Stein is very clever with how she formulates sentences in this book. She remarks on more than one occasion her obsession with the English language. Specifically the use of sounds. She begins to - paint - a novel with her words. Like the artist Picasso, who she is most fascinated with, her novel begins to paint a sort of cubist realism. There is no fluff here. And despite the very limited way she describes characters we eventually begin to see a full picture of them through Toklas/Stein's written words. Her words in way merge words, ideas, sounds, and create art.

We also see how certain artists inspire other artists.
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