Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice (Google eBook)

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Yale University Press, Sep 1, 2007 - Biography & Autobiography - 238 pages
3 Reviews
'How had the pair of elderly Jewish lesbians survived the Nazis?' Janet Malcolm asks at the beginning of this extraordinary work of literary biography and investigative journalism. The pair, of course, is Gertrude Stein, the modernist master 'whose charm was as conspicuous as her fatness' and 'thin, plain, tense, sour' Alice B. Toklas, the 'worker bee' who ministered to Stein's needs throughout their forty-year expatriate 'marriage'. As Malcolm pursues the truth of the couple's charmed life in a village in Vichy France, her subject becomes the larger question of biographical truth. 'The instability of human knowledge is one of our few certainties', she writes.The portrait of the legendary couple that emerges from this work is unexpectedly charged. The two world wars Stein and Toklas lived through together are paralleled by the private war that went on between them. This war, as Malcolm learned, sometimes flared into bitter combat."Two Lives" is also a work of literary criticism. 'Even the most hermetic of Stein's writings are works of submerged autobiography', Malcolm writes. 'The key of "I" will not unlock the door to their meaning - you need a crowbar for that - but will sometimes admit you to a kind of anteroom of suggestion'. Whether unpacking the accessible "Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas", in which Stein 'solves the koan of autobiography', or wrestling with "The Making of Americans", a masterwork of 'magisterial disorder', Malcolm is stunningly perceptive.

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User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Malcolm (The Journalist and the Murderer ) presents a masterful glimpse into the lives of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, whose 40-year relationship is one of the most intriguing of the 20th ... Read full review

Review: Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice

User Review  - Jackie Snow - Goodreads

The premise "How had the pair of elderly Jewish lesbians survive the Nazis" was not actually addressed. This is an extended New Yorker article that does not stand well as a book. Read full review



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About the author (2007)

Janet Malcolm is the author of numerous books, including "The Silent Woman", "Psychoanalysis", and "In the Freud Archives". She has been writing for "The New Yorker" since 1963. Janet lives in New York.

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