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This article is taken from PN Review 200, Volume 37 Number 6, June - July 2011.

A Metaphrase of Gertrude Stein Robin Maconie
The following is a metaphrase of Gertrude Stein's lecture 'Composition as Explanation'. Stravinsky once said 'words are the instruments of thought'. For Gertrude Stein, words corresponded more closely to the excrement of thought. Like many American writers of her generation, she was fascinated by the process and enjoyed and used the act of writing as a means of inquiry into the mind's digestion. The result is personal, messy, intimate and occasionally revelatory. A metaphrase is not what Gertrude Stein said but a reading of her remains to discover what she may have intended. The original lecture is lightened by occasional flashes of Gerard Manley Hopkins. It can also be read as a convincing manifesto of American minimalism in music.


There is no particular distinction in the order of words making a narrative other than what the reader intends in reading. To compose is to put together. How words are put together is how they are read as well as how they stand on the page, and the only difference there can be between how they are read and what is on the page is how the reader reads them and that changes from generation to generation. If it were not so then every reading would be the same and everybody would know.

If a reader is inclined to continue reading it is likely that what is being read is of interest or that the act of reading is giving pleasure: something they know or something they ...


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