Gertrude Stein Gives Kids and Adults Something: To Do
Gertrude Stein was an American, but her presence in Europe, notably her adopted home of Paris, was incredibly influential. Not everyone was a close friend of Picasso and Hemingway, a literary avant-garde comparable to Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, collected paintings by Matisse, or the subject of Carl Van Vechten’s photographs. It was this last relationship, with Van Vechten as her literary executor following her death, that brought many of her papers and manuscripts to Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where the works of dozens of other Modernist artists, including Stein’s brother Leo and her lover Alice B. Toklas, are now kept.
In association with the Beinecke, YUP has brought back one of Stein’s lesser-known works, To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays, beautifully illustrated by Giselle Potter and introduced by Beinecke curator, Timothy Young. Originally published by YUP as a text-only version in 1957 after Stein’s death, this manuscript, ostensibly a children’s book according to the author’s design, is composed of short stories for each letter. Taking into account that To Do is “a birthday book [Stein] would have liked as a child”, it is a quirky work of art that adults and children alike will enjoy. Most publishers turned it away for its intricate storytelling when Stein presented her manuscript, but YUP was proud to be the first, and with the newly-illustrated volume, we expect that the beauty of her writing will reach a new generation to delight, tickle, and even shock, as it was always meant to do.