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Two lives - Janet Malcolm

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Title
Two lives - Gertrude and Alice
Author
Janet Malcolm
format
Paperback / softback
Publisher
Yale University Press
Language
English
UK Publication Date
20080909

Unlocking the truth of the mystifying relationship between Gertrude Stein, brilliant and affable, and her brooding companion, Alice B. Toklas

"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.

Praise for the author:

"[Janet Malcolm] is among the most intellectually provocative of authors . . .able to turn epiphanies of perception into explosions of insight."-David Lehman, Boston Globe

"Not since Virginia Woolf has anyone thought so trenchantly about the strange art of biography."-Christopher Benfey

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Janet Malcolm is the author of The Journalist and the Murderer, The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, and Reading Chekhov, among other books. She writes for The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books and lives in New York City.

Listed as #5 on the Editors' top 10 list in Biography and #4 in Gay & Lesbian for 2007 by amazon.com


Named one of the 100 Notable Book of 2007 by The New York Times Book Review



Listed as one of the 2007 Biography 'Books We Liked Best' by the Christian Science Monitor

Selected as a Best Book of 2007 by Entertainment Weekly

A 2007 Top Seller in Literature as compiled by YBP Library Services

Type
BOOK
Keyword Index
Authors, American - 20th century - Biography.|Women authors, American - 20th century - Biography.|Jewish women authors - 20th century - Biography.|Lesbian authors - 20th century - Biography.|Americans - France - Paris - History - 20th century.|Paris (France) - Intellectual life - 20th century.
Country of Publication
Connecticut
Number of Pages
240

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