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Friday, June 13, 2014

The Making of Americans (1925) by Gertrude Stein

Book Review
The Making of Americans
(1925) by Gertrude Stein
San Diego Public Library Edition

  When the back of the book says, "an under-appreciated modernist classic," RUN, because that means you are in for some repetitive, incomprehensible prose.  Or at least that was my experience with The Making of Americans, which Stein wrote between 1903 and 1911, but which wasn't published until 1924 (in an edition of 500) and which didn't get a full, unedited American edition until 1995. I read the edited 1934 Harcourt Brace version, and sue me for not wanting to wade through the "full" version.  The 1934 Harcourt Brace version was 400 pages, the 1995 edition is a full 926 edition.  Who has the time for that?

 The style of The Making of Americans is best described as "epic" as in "sounds like a Scandinavian epic poem from the middle ages"- she uses a ton of repetition, a narrator who comments (often uninterestingly) on events of the novel, and a very limited vocabulary to tell the story of several generations of Americans.  The Making of Americans very much reminded me of Scandinavian literature, in particular, Knut Hamsun's The Growth of the Soil.  Although Hamsun is practically writing detective fiction when you compare the vivacity of his prose to that of Stein.

 I mean seriously- watch out- The Making of Americans is a doozy.  Not fun. For graduate students ONLY. Full stop.

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