a room is a room is a room

You walk into the exhibit;

you see a space with life-size photographs of her living room projected on each wall.

If you walked into the room, you would find yourself

inside Gertrude Stein’s living room.

Gertrude and Alice looking at you from the “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I was living in Paris when I first read Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.

I walked to her apartment building on 27 Rue de Fleurus.

Stood in front of it.

Read the commemorative plaque.

Her living room is long gone, now just a photographic shadow.

What do I gain by seeing the room itself?

Or any author’s room, for that matter. Does it change how we read their work?

I think about whose home I would like to visit, real or fictional.

Homer’s study?  Plato’s bedroom? Madame Bovary’s kitchen?

9 thoughts on “a room is a room is a room

  1. I once went to the beach in Dollarton (outside Vancouver, B.C.) where Malcolm Lowry lived in a squatter’s shack during the 1940s and wrote some of his finest work, including Under the Volcano. The shack is long gone and the place is now a public park with boat ramps and bicycle paths, but you can still see the Shell oil refinery on the opposite shore of the inlet that at night became his own vision of hell (the “s” was missing from the neon sign). It felt like I was connecting with his spirit even though I don’t believe in such things. The truth is, it was his words, those slivers of his imagination, that I had connected with. Still, I picked up a rock from the beach and keep it as a talisman.

    Nice entry, and thanks for following my blog.

  2. I agree with you, it’s probably the words (the ‘slivers of imagination’ as you so beautifully put it) that we are searching a connection with. I love your writing style and am enjoying reading your posts.

    oh, and I would have taken the rock too 🙂

  3. I visited Maison de Hugo in Paris and felt awed standing at the desk where he wrote. Maybe it wouldn’t make sense to anyone who doesn’t write, but I seek out author’s homes and writing spaces hoping that I’ll see things through their eyes for a moment and be inspired by being in the same atmosphere that they were.

    I did feel very inspired in Hemingway’s House in Key West. But not as much when I went over to his writing studio/office. The house was so much more inviting to me.

  4. That’s so interesting that you felt something powerful at Hugo’s desk but not at Hemingway’s desk. Maybe it’s something about the writing itself or what we know of the author? (I find it easier to imagine Hemingway in his living room than in his office for some odd reason). Hmmm, not sure!

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