Synopses & Reviews
This is the first paperback edition of a long out of print collection of short pieces written between 1915 and 1927 -- the period during which Miss Stein evolved the writing practices that remain challenging and fresh even today.
Gertrude's Stein's long expatriation and her concern with the farthest reaches of experimental art and literature never dissolved her identification with her roots -- she "always remained, " as she writes, "firmly born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania." Useful Knowledge deals with American geography, personality, and culture, often in a hilariously satirical vein, and belongs to her career long series of portraits of America and its inhabitants that begins with Three Lives and The Making of Americans (which precede it) and ends only with her late opera about Susan B. Anthony, The Mother of Us All.
These verbally transformed private remembrances include portraits of Woodrow Wilson, Paul and Eslanda Robeson, Josephine Baker, and many others, as well as the celebrated "Idem the Same, A Valentine to Sherwood Anderson, " one of the works Miss Stein recorded at Columbia University in 1935 and which is still available.
Keith Waldrop's introduction furnishes new insight into the process and development of Stein's infamous style, always more intricately evolving than is recognized. And Edward Burns provides "useful knowledge about Useful Knowledge, " the kind of close-up, detailed information about Stein's text that we rarely find when we most want it. Burns comments: "Stein's writings convey the density of her perceptions and her emotions. They also trace the writing process itself. Her work is, in part, about the method by which she utilizes and transforms the fabric ofexperience and memory, the bits and pieces of her 'daily everyday living, ' into poetic compositions."
Fiction. "The importance of USEFUL KNOWLEDGE is that it is one of the few Gertrude Stein satirical works; not political so much as cultural, she spoofs American advertising memorably in 'Business in Baltimore' in such passages as 'more and better and better and best.,' which, if you read it aloud, is sure to reduce any audience to dangerous amounts of laughter" -Dick Higgins.
Useful Knowledge is pleasant and therefore it is very much to be enjoyed, writes Gertrude Stein in her Advertisement for this Book-an apt characterization of the experience of reading it sixty years after its disappearance from print. Despite her long expatriation, she always remained in her words, firmly born in Allegheny Pennsylvania. Indeed- physical detachment from her homeland seems only to have deepened her love for the country, a passion very nearly erotic, that blossomed in this private remembrance that is both tender and humorous. War, Woodrow Wilson, Chicago, Sherwood Anderson-such is the range of her intimate concerns. As for the significant questions to which her writings respond: Wherein Iowa differs from Kansas and Indiana and Wherein the South differs from the North, useful knowledge indeed, when the thought is opened along with the word in these extraordinary prose inventions. Keith Waldrop's introduction furnishes new insight into the process and development of Stein's infamous style as always more intricately evolving than is recognized. And Edward Burns provides useful knowledge about Useful Knowledge, the kind of information about Stein's text that we rarely find when we most want it