Work Offers New Perspective on Stein-Toklas Relationship

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com January 18 2012 6:50 PM ET

Long after their deaths, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas remain one of the world’s most celebrated lesbian couples, but a new edition of a Stein work makes clear that like others, they had their problems.

Yale University Press’s new edition of the long poem Stanzas in Meditation, released this week, “reveals the fraught and jealous relationship” between Stein and Toklas, Publishers Weekly reports. Toklas, who was Stein’s editor as well as her lover, was upset by references to Stein’s former love interest May Bookstaver in the original manuscript and insisted the author change them. The new release, edited by Susannah Hollister and Emily Setina, includes the original text as well as a guide to the differences in various versions of the work, which was first published in the 1950s.

The press is also bringing out a new edition of Stein’s novel Ida, about the impact of fame on a woman’s life, and it includes commentary by editor Logan Esdale plus archival materials on the novel’s development and its reception by critics when it came out in 1941.

These two books will “let readers experience the full extent of Stein's innovations and appreciate their relation to both private and public dimensions of another of her great creative works, her literary career itself,” Hollister and Setina wrote in an email to Publishers Weekly.