[Gertrude Stein – Portrait of Gertrude Stein by Felix Valloton (1907)]
Student: Where do you think that (Gertrude) Stein figures into this lineage of voices that you’ve presented to us from (Walt) Whitman through (William Carlos) Williams, or…
AG: Well, I was hoping that Phil(ip) (Whalen) would teach Stein at one point or other, because Phil taught… originally. He’s the best Stein voice I heard, or reader, (that) I(‘ve) heard – [to Philip Whalen] Are you going to be talking about that at all?
Philip Whalen: Yeah, I plan to. ..
AG: Okay. My own thought about it is that she’s actually the intersection point of literature and consciousness expansion, or consciousness awareness, or 20th Century consciousness investigation. Being a student of William James, who was interested in “Varieties of Religious Experience”, she had a somewhat scientific approach to language and (to) the functioning of the mind in relation to language. And interesting notions of writing in the present moment, eliminating all reference to past history or future fantasy, but dwelling in an absolute present, grammatically, syntactically, phenomenologically. The exact method, I think we better leave to Phil (to explain). You once… What was the essay you once read me?
Philip Whalen: “Composition as Explanation“
AG: I know. A little essay called “Composition as Explanation”. I don’t know if we have that one here. Do you know?
Philip Whalen: All that material was..
AG: Larry (to Larry Fagin). Do we have Stein here? Much? Well, where is that published, “Composition as Explanation”?
Philip Whalen: You can get it in the little Penguin volume, sort of (a) Selected Writings, a bright yellow cover on it [Look at Me Now and Here I Am – Writings and Lectures 1909-1945] But it’s also in an American thing from Random House, a paperback of Selected Writings – I think it’s in both of them.
AG: It’s the most direct explanation of her intentions that I know.
Philip Whalen: The really quick and thorough book is Lectures in America, which is also in paperback, and….
[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at approximately forty-nine-and-a-half minutes in and concluding approximately fifty-one-and-three-quarter minutes in]