Hear Gertrude Stein Read Works Inspired by Matisse, Picasso, and T.S. Eliot (1934)


eBay prices for the album Gertrude Stein Reads Her Own Work range from $20 to $200. Vinyl purists, and Stein purists, may long for one of the still-sealed copies at the upper end of that range. The rest of us can enjoy hear­ing its record­ings as mp3s, free on the inter­net cour­tesy of PennSound. These clips, record­ed between 1934 and 1935 (which came out in album form in 1956) let you put your­self in the pres­ence of the poet. Much of the work she reads aloud here comes inspired by observ­ing oth­er cre­ative lumi­nar­ies. The record’s pro­duc­ers includ­ed these homages along with a piece of an inter­view, vari­ants of well-known poems such as “How She Bowed to Her Broth­er” (which often appears under the name “She Bowed to Her Broth­er”), and an excerpt from her nov­el The Mak­ing of Amer­i­cans.

But to get straight into the tex­tu­al sub­stance, lis­ten to “The Fif­teenth of Novem­ber… T.S. Eliot,” her por­trait of her col­league in let­ters. Then hear her cap­tur­ing a cer­tain well-known painter in “If I Told Him: a Com­plet­ed Por­trait of Picas­so.” And on painter Hen­ri Matisse, she begins her remarks as fol­lows: “One was quite cer­tain that for a long part of his being one being liv­ing he had been try­ing to be cer­tain that he was wrong in doing what he was doing and then when he could not come to be cer­tain that he had been wrong in doing what he had been doing, when he had com­plete­ly con­vinced him­self that he would not come to be cer­tain that he had been wrong in doing what he had been doing he was real­ly cer­tain then that he was a great one and he cer­tain­ly was a great one.” If you feel proud of read­ing that whole sen­tence in one go, wait until you hear Stein speak it.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Gertrude Stein Recites ‘If I Told Him: A Com­plet­ed Por­trait of Picas­so’

The Dead Authors Pod­cast: H.G. Wells Com­i­cal­ly Revives Lit­er­ary Greats with His Time Machine

James Joyce in Paris: “Deal With Him, Hem­ing­way!”

Find works by Gertrude Stein in our Free Audio Books and Free eBooks col­lec­tions.

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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