O, words' sleepy family habits — awake!

Thinking about Stein (again) — I mean, probably: how to teach Stein. Those in my life who don't read Stein — can't "get" her — invariably ask, when I push, if there's an easy way in. There isn't, probably, but I do store up a bunch of quickie critical comments that seem (at least me) alluring as touchstone first approaches. I'll feature these occasionally in this blog. Here are two for today:

1) Long ago Edith Sitwell wrote, in her Poetry and Criticism, that Gertrude Stein "bring[s] back life to our language by what appears, at first, to be an anarchic process. First she breaks down the predestined groups of words, their sleepy family habits; then she rebrightens them, examines their texture, and builds them into new and vital shapes."

2) In his essay on Tender Buttons for The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book, Robert Grenier wrote that Stein was concerned with language not "as object-in-itself" but as "composition functioning in the composition of the world."

I don't think the Sitwell idea holds up, but it's helpful for starters, and I love the word "family" there.

from Robert Grenier, "Tender Buttons," in The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book, ed. Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein (1984), p. 206