Nonsense and Sense – A Tribute to Gertrude Stein
Written by Denis Daly
Performed by Bev Stevens
Introduction read by Bob Gonzalez
Excerpts from Three pieces for solo clarinet
by Igor Stravinsky
Performed by William McColl.
Among authors, Gertrude Stein is one of the most celebrated – some would even say notorious – iconoclasts. After starting out as a novelistic story-teller she explored the notion that words have sufficient power in themselves to create context, and hence the historical structures represented by the novel and narrative poem became inessential, although still useful.
A writer like Gertrude Stein is an obvious target for parody. However, no parody can be effective without an attempt to consider the integrity of the original author, obnoxious or maladroit though that person may be. In devising the following piece, the following elements of Stein’s method and personality were evoked:
1) the repetitive and idiosyncratic use of verbiage;
2) the juxtaposition of images usually considered to be unrelated;
3) the persistent and often specious style of argumentation;
4) an obscure but persistent preoccupation with self-justification;
5) a wish to keep the reader at a respectful distance.
Like many parodies, this piece is also a tribute. It is difficult, if not impossible, to compile a substantial satire about an author for whom one has no respect. A joke usually seeks to diminish the dignity and worth of its subject: a parody rather strives to highlight the flaws in something which is greater than itself. Whether one wishes to admit it or not, Gertrude Stein was a seminal figure in Twentieth Century Literature, and one whose contribution will be the source of study and discussion for generations to come.