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Three Lives Mass Market Paperback – Dec 31 2002
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From the Inside Flap
Consists of three character studies of women; "The Good Anna"--a kind but domineering German servingwoman; "Melanctha"--an uneducated but sensitive black girl; "The Gentle Lena"--a pathetically feebleminded young German maid. --This text refers to an alternate Mass Market Paperback edition.
From the Back Cover
In these three stories, Gertrude Stein put into practice certain theories about prose composition that paralleled the ideas expressed in the art of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters. --This text refers to an alternate Mass Market Paperback edition.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
After having heard about this book for years from a dear Stein-devotee pal, I gave it a try. I must say that, not only was I disappointed in the so-called language experimentation, but I was just plain bored. I did not find the characters interesting; I did not get taken into their world view by the stream-of-consciousness writing style that is Stein's trademark; I did not feel like I learned anything. What truly convinced my pal that I am an artistic philistine - and I guess I am in her measure - is that I vastly preferred The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas, which was written for a popular audience (this is, clearly written and not with all the obscure and in my view idioitic word play).
Oh well, this review will no doubt get many "unhelpful" votes, but then, at least I looked at it honestly and and naively and gave it the effort an avant-garde classic deserves. NOT RECOMMENDED.
What in the book provokes this controversy?
The question is complex. Though Stein in all three stories uses words like "black" and"german" as undeniable stereotypes, there is no denying that these categories get deconstructed by the narrative and the style.
If your read books for style, you cant go wrong here. Stein's experimental prose is poetry set to music, exploring all the auditory limits of the english language.
There are 3 stories, The Good Anna, Melanctha and The Gentle Lena.
The controversy is mainly about the second story. Not that the other stories dont have their issues. Eg: The Gentle Lena is probably one of the weirdest characters you will EVER see in fiction.
So, buy this book and treat yourself to some pleasure in the english language!
There is a controversy surrounding the book's central character named Melanctha. It is unfortunate that television dominates culture in this era. It would seem that when a work of literature depicts a black person, a typical reader expects Cliff Huxtable to appear in one of his dandy sweaters to dispense advice to one of his children in DKNY clothing. Or readers of popular literature (books with bumpy covers) become offended when African American characters do not resemble one of Alice Walker's or Alex Haley's romanticized figures.
Melanctha is realistic. She is most likely a composite of many of the women with whom Stein came in contact while studying medicine in urban Baltimore. Melanctha's tragedy is that her intellect will go to waste because she is black and because she is a woman. Her sin (to some readers) seems to be that she talks like a black woman from Baltimore at that time would talk. So don't buy this book if you are offended by the way black people acted or German people acted (there is a story about German immigrants, as well) in Baltimore in the early 20th century.
If you are a fan of popular literature...Haley, Alice Walker, and the Cosby show are probably more up your alley. If you are interested in a very interesting experimental work from early 20th Century, by a woman who took her appreciation of post-impressionist art and tried to apply it to literature...this is it.
Most recent customer reviews
I derived a great deal of pleasure from reading this book. I "became" each of these women. I wanted to live their lives and experience what they were going through. Read morePublished on June 9 2004 by Bethanie Frank
Returning to THREE LIVES after several years, I am again reminded of Stein's stylistic innovation and topical audacity. Read morePublished on March 28 2004 by The Reading Ape