Baby Precious Always Shines: Selected Love Notes Between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas

Kay Turner

Published by St. Martin's Press, 1999
ISBN 10: 0312198329 / ISBN 13: 9780312198329
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Synopsis: Off and on, during the entire period they were together, Gertrude and Alice wrote each other little love notes. Calling her "wifey" and most often addressing her as "baby precious," Stein scribbled her love for Toklas in quick moments of unselfconscious desire, notes that are small but significant testimonies to her long-lived love. And on occasion, Toklas penned or typed letters back to her "husband."

These notes are brief, mantra-like enticements: tender, beseeching, caring and confessing, funny and game, sexually-charged and sincere, quotidian and queer, but always passionate. Each one marks the pleasures--infrequently, the pains--of married love. When fitted together, the notes create a tantalizing mosaic of a marriage between two women that was built to last.

Review: Baby Precious Always Shines, a delightful selection from the 300 love notes that Alice B. Toklas accidentally deposited with the rest of Gertrude Stein's papers in the Beinecke Library at Yale, would not have been possible before the 1980s, when the locked cabinet in which they were kept was finally opened to scholars. In her excellent introduction, Kay Turner (whose other books include I Dream of Madonna: Women's Dreams of the Goddess of Pop) explains that with their baby talk and constant blessings, the notes provide "a tantalizing mosaic of a marriage between two women that was built to last." Composed in the "word-inverted, long-breathed, rolling, repetitive, refluent style that Stein invented," they touch on everyday events in the Stein-Toklas household and reiterate Stein's love and desire for Toklas. Many seem to have been left for Toklas to find in the morning beside the manuscripts that Stein had written during the night. A few were written by Toklas to Stein. Turner also offers a convincing new reading of Stein's famously obscure "cows" (in A Book Concluding with As a Wife Has a Cow: A Love Story and elsewhere), previously thought to signify female orgasm; she argues that Stein and Toklas subscribed to the "cult of regularity" that swept Europe in the first decades of the 20th century. Indeed, the love notes, despite their Steinian verbal play, leave little doubt that the recurring cows, "now sweet smelly and complete," are bowel movements--further evidence, for Turner, of the women's extraordinary intimacy, their love "express[ing] itself daily in the rituals of bodily caretaking."

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Baby Precious Always Shines: Selected Love ...
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 1999
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Good
Edition: 1st - may be Reissue.

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