Today is a horrible, hailing, raining, snowing mess, in Chicago, at least. And while it may be halloween, the only way I can fathom redeeming this day is not with costumes and candy, but with a hot bath and a new book.
Speaking of which, one of the books that we've recently gotten in to the store, albeit not new by any stretch, is a favourite rainy-day read of mine. Gertrude Stein's 1933 Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas is not an autobiography, exactly, as Stein writes it under the assumed identity of her longtime partner, Alice. It's an accessible read, one of Stein's most, but is still quite structurally inventive as, in this book, Stein basically (or perhaps completely) invented the form of the fictitious autobiography.
Within its pages, readers will find explicit detailing of dinner parties and of the day-to-day activities of the two, alongside heaping doses of praise for Stein, of course. What was really wonderful for me about this book was that it provided a previously inaccessible insight into the relationships and mechanics of life for artists and writers in 1920s Paris. While I was in art school, I'd, of course, learned about the work and even the lives of Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Apollinaire, et cetera, but it wasn't until reading this book that I totally pieced together the importance of their artistic community, and exactly how inter-related all of them were. This book accomplishes something that Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris tried to do, only, instead of a fictious imagining of the the creative hub of the early twentieth century, it's a first-hand account.
However, for those of you interested in a different perspective on an artist, specifically Picasso, you might be interested in TJ Clark's Picasso and Truth. This book has a quite opposite appeal from Stein's, as Clark sets out to examine Picasso's work from a formal perspective, disregarding the biography that can so often cloud and determine our experience of his work.
Clark's book, based on his Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts that were given at the National Gallery of Art, is lushly illustrated with reproductions of Picasso's work, and makes an argument that the artist was the one that Nietszche predicted would appear to cure us of our commitment to Truth.
So stop by to pick these up, or order them online and I'll ship them out posthaste, because no one should be outside for long in this weather.