Writing her lover’s “autobiography” proved a witty way for American author Gertrude Stein to detail her own life as Parisian writer, salon host and arts patron. Ostensibly, readers can take in the book, published in 1933, as Stein writing about Alice B. Toklas (which is what the title suggests) or as Toklas “writing” about Stein (which is what the book actually is). Either way, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas was groundbreaking in its experimentation with form: an autobiography written by another person. Many modernist masters make an appearance in Stein’s tome — among them Picasso, Hemingway and Matisse — and their influence on Stein is recounted through vivid anecdotes. For example, Stein’s first major publication, Three Lives, was written under the “stimulus” of a Cézanne painting. Although it became the author’s best-selling book, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas was mainly notable for its easier-to-read narrative style (a departure from Stein’s favored monologue form), making it a sort of Stein for Beginners.
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