Lover of the Fancy

Early C20th American culture and dissent

Three Lives
Gertrude Stein


Three Lives was published in 1909 but written in 1905 and 1906. It is a collection of novellas by Gertrude Stein. Characterized by its straightforward narrative style and disjointed prose, Three Lives proved a breakthrough for Stein, who had previously found it difficult bringing her works to publication. Each novella is set in Bridgepoint, a fictionalized version of Baltimore, where working class people of all races undergo the dignities and indignities of life in an industrialized nation. In “The Good Anna,” an immigrant housekeeper working in the home of a wealthy woman commands respect and order from all who cross her path. Caring only for her three small dogs, she does her best to forget a traumatic past. Having lost her mother in Germany at a young age, Anna moved to Bridgepoint with hope for a better future, but poor health and unlucky relationships haunt her throughout her life. “Melanctha” is the story of a young mixed-race woman who suffers from a lack of opportunity in a segregated city. Despite being honest and empathetic, she constantly finds herself betrayed and abandoned by those she trusts, and soon her pure heart and kind nature reach their limit. In “The Gentle Lana,” another German immigrant endures the banality and heartbreak of unhappily married life, raising a family and caring for a home without ever feeling fulfilled as an individual.

Paperback, 194pp
Mint Editions, 2020 (1909)
ISBN 9781513282275


GERTRUDE STEIN (1874-1946) was an American novelist and poet. Born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, Stein was raised in an upper-middle-class Jewish family alongside four siblings. After a brief move to Vienna and Paris, the Steins settled in Oakland, California in 1878, where Stein would spend her formative years. In 1892, following the loss of her mother and father, Stein moved with her sister to live with family in Baltimore, where she was exposed to salon culture. From 1893 to 1897 she attended Radcliffe College, studying psychology under William James. Conducting experiments on the phenomenon of normal motor automatism, Stein produced early examples of steam of consciousness or automatic writing, a hallmark of the Modernist style later practiced by Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and William Faulkner. In 1897, she enrolled at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine on the recommendation of James, but ultimately left before completing her degree. She moved to Paris with her brother Leo, an artist, in 1903. In the French capital, the Steins gained a reputation as art collectors, purchasing works by Picasso, Matisse, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Renoir. At 27 rue de Fleurus, Stein hosted an influential salon for such artists and intellectuals as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and F Scott Fitzgerald, who recognized her as a leading Modernist and central figure of the so-called Lost Generation. Her influential works include Three Lives (1909), Tender Buttons (1912), and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933), all of which exemplify her control over vastly different styles of poetry and prose. Capable of producing experimental, hermetic works that draw attention to the constructed nature of language, Stein also excelled with straightforward narratives, essays, and biographical descriptions. From 1907 until her death, Stein and her life partner Alice B. Toklas gained a reputation as leaders in the international avant-garde, and remain essential to our understanding of the development of twentieth century art and culture.