Monday, May 30, 2022

the last book I ever read (My Autobiography by Charie Chaplin, excerpt eight)

from My Autobiography by Charlie Chaplin:

Back in Beverly Hills, I received an invitation to meet Gertrude Stein at the house of a friend of mine. When I arrived, Miss Stein was seated on a chair in the centre of the drawing-room, dressed in brown, wearing a lace collar, her hands on her lap. For some reason she looked like Van Gogh’s portrait of Madam Roulin, only instead of red hair with a bun on top Gertrude had short-cropped brown hair.

The guests stood around at a respectful distance, forming a circle. A lady-in-waiting whispered something to Gertrude, then came to me. ‘Miss Gertrude Stein would like to meet you.’ I hopped forward. There was little opportunity to talk at that moment because others were arriving and waiting to be introduced.

At lunch the hostess placed me next to her and in some way or other we got on to the subject of art. I believe it started by my admiring the view from the dining-room window. But Gertrude showed little enthusiasm. ‘Nature,’ she said, ‘is commonplace; imitation is more interesting.’ She enlarged on this thesis, stating that imitation marble looked more beautiful than the real thing, and that a Turner sunset was lovelier than any real sky. Although these pronouncesments were rather derivative, I politely agreed with her.

She theorized about cinema plots: ‘They are too hackneyed, complicated and contrived.’ She would like to see me in a movie just walking up the street and turning a corner, then another corner, and another. I thought of saying that her idea was a paraphrase of that mystic emphasis of hers: ‘Rose is a rose is a rose’ – but an instinct stopped me.

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