Monday, March 2, 2020

Books: Maria Kalman Illustrates "The Autobiography Of Alice B. Toklas

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
By Gertrude Stein - Illustrations by Maria Kalman
Penguin Press; hardcover; $30.00; available Tuesday, March 3

Gertrude Stein was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, on February 3, 1874. At Radcliffe College, she studied under William James, who remained her lifelong friend, and then she went to Johns Hopkins to study medicine. In 1903, she abandoned her studies and moved to Paris with her brother Leo.
Gertrude settled in at 27 rue de Fluerus, where she lived with Alice B. Toklas, who would remain her companion for 40 years. She was an innovator in literature, and a supporter of modern poetry and art.

Toklas also was the friend and mentor of those who visited her at her now-famous home, including fellow expatriate American writers such as Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound, as well as artists Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, and Man Ray. Her body of work includes Three Lives, Tender Buttons, and The Making of Americans.

Stein's most memorable work might be The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, which she wrote in the style and voice of her life partner, and it is considered one of the richest and most irreverent biographies in history. 

Published in 1933 and narrated by Alice, this autobiography opens with her initial move to France in 1907, the day after which she meets Gertrude, sparking a relationship that lasts nearly four decades.

Recounting the vibrant and literary life the two make for themselves among the Parisian avant-garde, Alice opens the doors to the prominent salons they held in their home at reu de Fleurus, and speaks of the twilight of the Paris belle epoque.

Maria Kalman is an author, illustrator, and designer. She is the author of Beloved Dog, And the Pursuit of Happiness, and illustrator and coauthor of Cake. She is the illustrator of Michael Pollan's Food Rules and the bestselling edition of William Strunk and E.B. White's The Elements of Style. Kalman's art is represented by Julie Saul Projects in Manhattan.

In this edition of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Kalman brings this glittering Parisian world to life, and celebrates Stein and Toklas in vivid color. Her whimsical and inimitable illustrations complement the wit and humor of Stein's narrative, and elevates the exciting intrigues of these famous women and their friends. This will prompt a contemporary reading of this cherished and singular classic.

On Wednesday March 11 at 7:00 pm, Maria Kalman will be appearing at Books Are Magic (225 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231), in conversation with Francoise Mouly. For more information, click here.

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