Sister Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein

Sister Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein

by Brenda Wineapple
     
 

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Devoted, eccentric, and compelling, Gertrude and Leo Stein were constant companions, from childhood to adulthood, until, finally, they spoke no more. Americans, expatriates, and virtually orphans, they lived together for almost forty years, collaborating in one of the great artistic and literary adventures of the twentieth century. Sister Brother tells the story of… See more details below

Overview

Devoted, eccentric, and compelling, Gertrude and Leo Stein were constant companions, from childhood to adulthood, until, finally, they spoke no more. Americans, expatriates, and virtually orphans, they lived together for almost forty years, collaborating in one of the great artistic and literary adventures of the twentieth century. Sister Brother tells the story of that adventure and relationship. With a personality that drew people toward her-regardless of what they thought of her inventive, hermetic prose-Gertrude Stein dazzled and perplexed. Enigmatic, intelligent, and self-absorbed, Leo also dazzled but in his own way. One of the crucial figures in Gertrude's early years, he was the original guiding spirit of the famed salon at 27 rue de Fleurus, which continued for almost two decades. From her early days as a medical student to her first days in Paris, Gertrude was passionately driven toward the career in which she distinguished herself, demanding appreciation as an exceptional writer who knew precisely what she intended. This book shows how Gertrude slowly struggled with what became a unique voice-and why her brother spurned it.

With its wealth of new and rare material, its reconstruction of Leo's famed art collection, and its array of characters-from Bernard Berenson to Pablo Picasso-this biography offers the first glimpse into the smoldering sibling relationship that helped form two of the twentieth century's most unusual figures.

Brenda Wineapple is the author of Genêt: A Biography of Janet Flanner and Hawthorne: A Life, which received the English-Speaking Union's Ambassador Award for the Best Biography of 2003 and the Boston Book Club's Julia Ward Howe Award. She teaches writing in the School of the Arts at Columbia University and the MFA program at the New School University in New York.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review

“Ms. Wineapple does an impressive job of setting down the facts of the Steins' eventful lives. . . . [An] ambitious biography.”—New York Times Book Review
Washington Post Book World

“Wineapple tells a dramatically compelling story; her analysis is insightful, her meticulous documentation unobtrusive. She has written an absorbing account of two extraordinary siblings.”—Washington Post Book World
San Francisco Chronicle

“Brenda Wineapple brilliantly disentwines the record of Stein's life from the image of it that Stein and her allies created. . . . Wineapple's narrative is fluent and clear . . . fascinating.”—San Francisco Chronicle
Booklist

“Wineapple illuminates the distinct and tremendously influential personalities of Gertrude and Leo Stein as well as the intricate nature of their intense but doomed relationship.”—Booklist
Boston Globe

“Drawing on rich archival sources, and interpreting them judiciously and sensitively, Wineapple gives us a fresh picture of Stein, many of her relatives, and especially the sibling to whom she was closest: her brilliant, intense brother Leo.”—Linda Simon, Boston Globe

— Linda Simon

Toronto Globe and Mail

“Sister Brother is a beautifully even-handed and penetrating treatment. This biography is indispensable for students of Gertrude Stein and of modernism, and will be a delight to lovers of art and to all those interested in what Wineapple calls ‘the romance of families.’”—Toronto Globe and Mail
Elle

“A riveting joint profile of Gertrude and Leo Stein. . . . A wild, Fauve-like canvas of a time before emotional color was muted by Prozac.”—M. G. Lord, Elle
Daily Telegraph

“Wineapple’s book explores their partnership with humour and panache. Not the least of its virtues is that, while paying ample homage to Gertrude, it does justice perhaps for the first time at length and in detail, to Leo. . . . Scrupulous, sensitive, marvellous.”—Daily Telegraph
Forward

“Eloquent”—Forward
The Guardian

“A rewarding read.”—Guardian
Chicago Tribune

“Brenda Wineapple could have called this book ‘Scenes from a Marriage’. . . . An absorbing picture.”—Chicago Tribune
Richard Howard

“A luminous, harrowing achievement for which all students of literature and art, as well as of families, are in Brenda Wineapple's debt.”

Patricia Bosworth

“Brenda Wineapple’s meticulous, scholarly, and affectionate double biography of Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo gives us the fascinating story of two glorious animals.”

Boston Globe - Linda Simon

“Drawing on rich archival sources, and interpreting them judiciously and sensitively, Wineapple gives us a fresh picture of Stein, many of her relatives, and especially the sibling to whom she was closest: her brilliant, intense brother Leo.”—Linda Simon, Boston Globe
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Just before WW I, the suffocating brother-sister relationship of the Steins ended in Paris. They never again spoke to each other. Gertrude Stein's gift for self-promotion has largely created her image. Now Wineapple (the biographer of Janet Flanner-Gent) looks behind it. "It was I who was the genius," Gertrude claimed, "there was no reason for it, but I was, and he was not." Siblings of German-Jewish ancestry with inherited incomes, Gertrude and Leo Stein showed little motivation to succeed at anything. Leo would drop out of law schol, Gertrude out of medical school. From their teens in Cambridge and Baltimore into their late 30s on the Continent, they remained close, often living together. In France, they collected bohemian friends and avant-garde art while trying to find themselves. Gertrude grew fat and sloppy while bullying her lesbian set; Leo became neurotic and anorexic, his sense of inadequacy growing in proportion to his sister's success. By 1913, her experimental prose built upon repetition and rhythm was already being parodied. Going nowhere when Alice Toklas moved in, Leo moved out of the already famous Paris flat hung with Picassos, Matisses and Renoirs to a cottage in Italy, taking half the pictures. Leo's loyal-but desperate-mistress would follow him. Finally, just before his death in 1947, Leo published the single book on aesthetics by which he would be remembered. The year before, he had heard about Gertrude's death only from a newspaper. Their years together are not inspiring reading, but Wineapple's account evokes their lives as never before. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Despite the interwoven lives of Gertrude and Leo Stein, this biography by Wineapple (literature, Union Coll., Schenectady) is the first to use the sister-brother relationship as the central focus. Wineapple chronicles the symbiotic lives, personalities, intellects, and temperaments of Gertrude and Leo from childhood through death. She explores the siblings' idiosyncrasies and speculations about their relationship while offering details of their educational pursuits and college lives. In the process, Wineapple reveals the era's prejudices against Jews and women and specifics about Leo's relationship with Nina Auzias. While Linda Wagner-Martin's recent biography, Favored Strangers: Gertrude Stein and Her Family (Rutgers Univ., 1995), offers a more generally appealing, anecdotal writing style and emphasizes the Stein family experience, Wineapple provides a more detailed, authoritative account of the personal and intellectual lives of Gertrude and Leo. Her work is a good scholarly companion to James Mellow's standard biography, Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein & Company (1974). For literature collections.-Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, N.J.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780803217539
Publisher:
University of Nebraska Press
Publication date:
03/01/2008
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
536
Product dimensions:
1.07(w) x 6.00(h) x 9.00(d)

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