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The Making of Americans

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  387 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
In "The Making of Americans," Gertrude Stein sets out to tell "a history of a family's progress," radically reworking the traditional family saga novel to encompass her vision of personality and psychological relationships. As the history progresses over three generations, Stein also meditates on her own writing, on the making of "The Making of Americans," and on America.
Paperback, 926 pages
Published December 1st 1995 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1925)
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May 26, 2013 Jonathan rated it really liked it

"I am all unhappy in this writing. I know very much of the meaning of the being in men and women. I know it and feel it and I am always learning more of it and now I am telling it and I am nervous and driving and unhappy in it. Sometimes I will be all happy in it." p348

This is not the novel I thought it was. At least, I chose to read it as other.

This is the voice of uncertainty, of isolation and confusion, of a desperate attempt to understand through categorisation. The narrator is caught betwe
Mar 01, 2013 Geoff rated it did not like it
There is a labored ugliness to Stein’s prose in this book, a deliberate and highly structured repulsiveness that defies one to keep reading. In that way it’s revolutionary prose and exactly what good writing should be. William H Gass is so enchanted by the prose of this book that he took the time and effort to make spindle diagrams showing why it is such great prose and is so complex, so don’t blame me if you love this book. I only read about 30 pages of it, and this was a number of days ago. I ...more
Dec 03, 2014 Nils rated it it was amazing
I understand why a great many readers dislike this book; nonetheless, I do not think their reactions to it could be even a scintilla more wrongheaded.

A few disjointed, inchoate thoughts:

This is one of the few books I have read to move beyond the "language as process" one might find in McElroy or the more extreme passages of Pynchon; it instead approximates something more along the lines of "language as being."

Will is an illusion to the extent that humans are a composite of cellular interaction
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Compendiusly Nipping Pastiche. Clearseeing.

I bought this two years ago as a summer read and I still haven't read it.

There is a labored ugliness to Stein. Anyone expecting a Buddenbrooks type novel should be forewarned. Every one always is repeating the whole of them. Combined with Stein's repetitious style of writing, it becomes extremely tedious. The language is intoxicating. Yawn! I like my art post-modern and marginally comprehensible.

It’s revolutionary prose and exactly what good writing sho
Mar 04, 2010 Ben rated it it was amazing
This book is ostensibly a history of three generations of two wealthy families (and everyone they ever knew or knew them), but anyone expecting a Buddenbrooks type novel should be forewarned. Among other things, The Making of Americans is a philosophical and poetic meditation on identity, on what it means to be human living an everyday, mundane life.

The narrator utilizes an ever growing list of categories to be able to understand all kinds of men and women, to someday write a history of all type
Mar 14, 2009 tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: NOONE, as I was saying
Shelves: literature
As I was Saying, "The Making of Americans", y'know?

review of the Dalkey Archive's 925+pp edition of Gertrude Stein's
"The Making of Americans"
- read from March 14, 2009 to May 22, 2009 (70 days)

THIS IS THE CAPSULE REVIEW. FOR THE FULL REVIEW SEE THE "tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's writing" accessible thru my GoodReads profile @:
or by going directly to:

I finished it. The entire thing. As
Leo Robertson
Sep 11, 2012 Leo Robertson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: xprmntl
Yes, this book really struck a chord with me. And perhaps it did so because I don’t see any of my Goodreads friends having read it yet, which is a problem I have connecting individually with a book when I see what others already thought about it- or even that they did think about it first. All I can then think of is someone else understanding it more, enjoying it more- or in the case that I’m enjoying it more, the imaginary reader tears the book apart with their superior intellect, and I’m an id ...more
[On the right]: Dalkey Archive edition with foreword by Wm. Gass. A really beautiful-condition edition that came from an Amazon seller today. I had downloaded a copy but the book is too massive to comfortably read on a screen and my library had no copies on the shelves. So I got this for less than $10. Very happy with this. It will take awhile to get through because Stein is not easy, but my comprehension of her is good now.
Phillip Hays
Feb 11, 2009 Phillip Hays rated it did not like it
Shelves: avoidatallcosts
James Thurber said it best: "Anyone who reads at all diversely during these bizarre 1920s cannot escape the conclusion that a number of crazy men and women are writing stuff which remarkably passes for important composition among certain persons who should know better...[Gertrude Stein:] is the most eminent of the idiots."
Jun 26, 2007 Paolo rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone.
Shelves: novels
As I re read this book, I'm realizing how slippery, if not non-existent altogether, the category 'post modern novel' truly is. That is, I'm not sure if any work of avant garde fiction that I've encountered post-Stein/WW2 period surpasses her monumental achievement in this novel. Truly remarkable.
Apr 05, 2007 Chris added it
Shelves: abandoned
I bought this because John Ashberry put it on the reading list for a poetry workshop. Why? Because he loved Stein's language, and thought poetys could learn something from it. At the end of the workshop, he admited that he'd never made it all the way through it either.
كوماروف مايكل
Sep 03, 2014 كوماروف مايكل rated it it was amazing
Shelves: le-ciel
There was no past or present in this book, there was existence in this book, there were characters in it but there was nothing important inside it, there was nothing past or present or in the future that would be connected to it, it had existence enough to make of it a really existent thing inside itself, existence was strong in it in every moment of it, strong enough to make it be real inside itself. It is the nature of myself to become bored with repetition, this comes from the bottom nature o ...more
Aug 14, 2012 Erik marked it as never-finished
Many people say Finnegans Wake is unreadable, but at least Joyce's "dream language" contains real musicality and invention; Americans surely beats it in terms of infuriating unnavigability. 900 pages of dry and repetitive sentences seems vapid, useless, and self-indulgent in the worst sense, even when perceived as "literary Cubism." Maybe many years from now I'll give it more of a chance and it will "come alive" for me, but I doubt it.
May 14, 2007 Philip rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: The adventurous
It's been so long since I had my big, big Gertrude Stein phase, but I loved this book tremendously. It's hypnotic, folding over itself and winding through people and thoughts and the lives they were leading.

Not for the casual reader, certainly, but enchanting.
Mar 21, 2017 Miriam rated it liked it
Mellifluous, hypnotic.

I really don't know what to say about this. I have a few thoughts.

The repetitive nature of the writing draws attention to the circles people think themselves into--the statements they make about themselves and others, the observations they have and use to live by. And the small changes in these observations are very interesting--Stein shows in painstaking detail how people tell themselves stories about who they are and how those stories subtly change over time, sometimes ev
Jul 25, 2011 Sunny rated it did not like it
Commendable effort in what is clearly an incredible experimental style of writing. if you thought ullyses was difficult to read dont try this!!! its about a few families set in the states and goes into detail about their characters. When i say detail i mean DETAIL. it explored relationships and the way one person thinks about any other. its impossible to be able to summarize this book. Easily the hardest book i have ever read and that includes the complete works of Plato. Maybe i missed the poin ...more
Jun 04, 2009 Kent rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-1940-1970
For Stein, trying to describe the history of any one family is incredibly complicated. And no matter how much effort she puts into precision, there is no end to what can be said about a family, or even about a person. Some of my favorite gestures in the book involve her promises to say something about that person later, or to write a book someday about that part of the family. I would say reading this book is like getting beneath this incredibly heavy textual comforter and feeling smothered. But ...more
Jun 27, 2009 Paul rated it really liked it
I read a lengthy excerpt of this book and was so hypnotized by its repetitions that I actually began to feel as if I was living the narrative - a sensation which was very startling to experience, if a little trite to describe. Unfortunately, when I started the book from the beginning I just got bored.
Jul 14, 2008 Mary rated it it was amazing
Whoah. This book is 1,000 pages of circular sentences, many of which were constructed in Gertrude Steins's head while sitting for a portrait by Picasso. If you are okay skipping head, the last page includes a remarkable passage on dying. There's also a taped recording of this section at many library under, "The Making of Americans."
Henry Cesari
Sep 27, 2013 Henry Cesari rated it it was ok
I understand Stein's message: words cannot, not have meaning... but not much else. Like modern art I respect her originality in creating a functionless piece of art for shock value but have little use for her writing.
Basically this book could have been a lot shorter and would have made sense. Whole pages of text comprise of young old men and women certainly living,eating,loving and needing to be married and then being dead.
Dec 29, 2007 Pamela rated it it was amazing
i read the 130 abridged version and it was awesome. i read half out loud and the other half loud and slow in my head. every word spanked me

i think the real version is like 900 pages long. thats a summer job
Feb 14, 2008 Wendy marked it as to-read
I bought this two years ago as a summer read and I still haven't read it. I am reading it this summer. (Crossing Fingers)
Claudia Keelan
Jan 05, 2013 Claudia Keelan rated it it was amazing
Stein's epic novel is the best primer on pure democracy written. What is an American self? Something continuously "in the making..."and not content with the borders of character
Jun 03, 2015 Susan rated it it was ok
I couldn't do it. I have broken on the rocks of Gertrude Stein. I can see what she is attempting, and I think it's interesting. But I can't do it for 900 pages. I concede.

Mar 13, 2008 Darrell rated it did not like it
Shelves: reviewed
The Making of Americans is more of an experiment than a novel. Gertrude Stein attempts to psychoanalyze all of her characters by not just explaining their parent's personalities, but also their grandparent's personalities.

It's an interesting approach, but combined with Stein's repetitious style of writing, it becomes extremely tedious. It's not unusual for her to spend an entire page telling us something that could be summed up in one sentence. She's intent in her desire to state something exac
May 19, 2009 Oriana marked it as to-read
Over the weekend I saw a play based on A Geographical History of America, which was... well look, I'm just glad I saw it alone, because if I'd had any of my friends exchange dollars for the entertainment offered, I'd likely have lost a finger or two in the ensuing fracas.

The play wasn't bad, really, just kooky, which obviously was the only way it could have been, being based on a Gertrude Stein book and all. Anyway, whew, I haven't tried to read her in years and years, and since I already have
Nov 15, 2008 Johnathan rated it it was ok
Shelves: couldntfinish
I just couldn't handle this ... there were passages that just blew me away. But for the most part, I felt like I was rereading the same five thoughts over and over and over and over. I love the lyrical, oral kind of feel to her language; the way she almost re-teaches you syntax... but the payoff (at least after 160 pages) just felt to small to keep struggling with it, and falling asleep.
May 04, 2015 Erika rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 05, 2008 Dominique rated it really liked it
I cannot imagine wanting to read this book from start to finish so I haven't. I still love reading it. The language is intoxicating. It's like breathing. My favorite doorstop.
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Gertrude Stein was an American writer who spent most of her life in France, and who became a catalyst in the development of modern art and literature. Her life was marked by two primary relationships, the first with her brother Leo Stein, from 1874-1914, and the second with Alice B. Toklas, from 1907 until Stein's death in 1946. Stein shared her salon at 27 rue de Fleurus, Paris, first with Leo an ...more
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“I write for myself and strangers.” 3 likes
“It is hard living down the tempers we are born with. We all begin well, for in our youth there is nothing we are more intolerant of than our own sins writ large in others and we fight them fiercely in ourselves; but we grow old and we see that these our sins are of all sins the really harmless ones to own, nay that they give a charm to any character, and so our struggle with them dies away.” 2 likes
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