Gertrude Stein’s Ida

While reading Gertrude Stein’s Ida, it struck me that Stein uses words and phrases like points in a pointillist painting. She also uses all the characters who flutter in and out as such points. I’m not sure whether Ida is herself another such point or the limit to the field of points. Which means if the whole novel is like a beautiful impressionist painting with no causal nexus and no apparent psychological depth – points of light reflected on a surface – who or what is Ida, this strange non-character who seems to have many different possible futures elapsing simultaneously. Is Ida really just another point of light? Is she the reflective surface itself? Or is she the distinguishing threat that always lurks within this type of writing – the threat that imagist writers might lift the veil at any moment and expose a gaping psychological depth, a poignant, pulsing human heart, that they thought they had escaped in the proliferating surfaces of their art?
(Related entries: The Frenchman Robbe-Grillet, A Digression on Abstract Art, The Clown and the Tiger, Impressions of Rachael in Spain and Morocco.)

6 thoughts on “Gertrude Stein’s Ida

  1. Wow! I am amazed at how you see things! I look at blue and see blue! It’s as if you see beyond the blue to unlimited potentials and new dimensions! Thanks for sharing and creating new possibilities for me! Love you! jen


  2. Keen insights, indeed, Gary. I have noted similar impressions while reading other works, most recently Porius by John Cowper Powys: the feeling that not only may the writer lift the veil at any moment, but also that I, the reader, am being freighted with a dormant code of sorts, which may strike at hidden, new and future psychological depths. I call this time-release art.



    • Per that second feeling, the one about being freighted with a hidden code, the meanings of which seem opaque but them become conscious in a time-release fashion, I’m not sure I got that with Stein’s Ida as much as I get it with Joyce and Woolf and Faulkner. Stein’s book seemed a little more like an extended William Carlos Williams poem … but all these writers are dynamically related in the development of that amorphous beast called modernism.


  3. Pingback: Shandy’s Faux Postmodernism | shakemyheadhollow

  4. Pingback: The Red Wheelbarrow and Jung’s Synchronicity (plus Keats) | shakemyheadhollow

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