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Three Lives

3.11  ·  Rating details ·  3,166 ratings  ·  295 reviews
Three Lives" - three short stories by Gertrude Stein - has had a curious history. First published in 1909 by the Grafton Press, this book of short stories has consistently maintained a striking underground reputation. "Three Lives" is an astonishing masterpiece when one considers that it was its author's first book. Reasonably enough, considering Gertrude Stein's subsequen ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published January 8th 2007 by MONDIAL (first published 1909)
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 ·  3,166 ratings  ·  295 reviews

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Apr 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
“You look ridiculous if you dance
You look ridiculous if you don't dance
So you might as well dance.”

― Gertrude Stein, Three Lives


These stories were certainly interesting. Each of these stories was interesting. Certainly, after reading them, I thought each of the stories by Gertrude Stein interesting. When I read them, I never knew if I could stand them enough to find them interesting. I did, however, stand them and by the end I did find them mostly interesting.

The second story was certainly the

I refuse to give it any stars...for this reason alone:

I was assigned it in undergrad (or at least one chapter, "Melanctha") for a class about white writers and how they construct race in their fictions.

I only read maybe 20 pages of said story, and no more, and ended up writing a 15 page paper on it. I was stoned and drunk at the time, having partied the night before I realized it was due. I kept going, the smoke and booze fueling my all-nighter. And, what's more, I clearly remember praying t
Debbie Zapata
Jun 22, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gutenberg
I give up. I give up completely. I give up without doing more than skim the second and third stories in this book. I simply must give up immediately, if not sooner.

Now that I hopefully have exorcised Stein's writing style from my mind, I will try to explain why I have to mark this book a DNF. I noticed the repetition in the first story here, The Good Anna. But other than wondering if the Bad Anna would ever show up, I did not mind reading the same words over again so many times. But I also did n

I once tried to take a starting sort of psychology class at the community college I attended from the time I left university up until I found out I could return. Along with the lunch-annihilating time and the scheduled multiple choice test per week, there was the joy of the teacher being a behaviorist specializing in children. I had suspected something of that sort, having chosen this class out of a mix of neccessity and a morbid curiosity about how these academics of sanity presented thems
The first story, 'The Good Anna', seems to be almost a direct copy of Flaubert's A Simple Heart. A short story about a simple passive houseservant and a parrot that keeps her going. Ah well. If you're going to steal be influenced by someone, you might as well take from the best.

The second story is called 'Melanctha'. The second story is repetitive. The second story repeats itself. The second story uses the same language often. The second story repeats itself. It's unbearably sweet at times, but
MJ Nicholls
Oct 22, 2012 marked it as sampled  ·  review of another edition
My first, and probably last, experience with Gertrude was the illuminating Penguin Classics intro (damn those academics—they raise your hopes!) and the first 15pp of ‘The Good Anna’ which utilises Stein’s revolutionary modernist technique—bland, basic descriptive sentences intercut with laughable dialogue, then the same bland, basic descriptive sentences repeated in a different way, with unnoticeably different dialogue no less tittersome. Per parody example: Anna was sad. Miss Mathilda scolded A ...more
Nov 29, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yuck, modernism
Hmm...Three Lives? Classic. Moving. Brilliant. Ground breaking....How about lousy?

In literary studies, Gertrude Stein is always discussed with such reverential deference that to criticize her work is deemed anti-intellectual and absurd. Nevertheless, I feel I can say with great confidence that Three Lives is one of the worst books I have ever read.

While reading "Melanctha" for a Modernist American literature course, I struggled with the baby language and ceaseless repetition. I get that she's t
Aug 02, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No, I just don't think I should.
Recommended to Meen by: Curiousity.
Shelves: fiction, own-it
So, I got through the first story, "The Good Anna," without too much strain thanks to the helpful introduction in this edition that explains Stein's repetitive writing style. I wasn't particularly impressed, but I enjoy reading older fiction as much for the window into how life looked in the past as for the story. Again thanks to the introduction, I was prepared for the inevitably racist caricatures of black folks in "Melanctha" and was looking forward to what the intro author suggested was the ...more
May 03, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gertrude Stein was a large, generous American woman who was a writer and a great lover of the good, warm, echoing-round sunshine of her own rosy prose. Gertrude Stein lived in Paris for many years and while she lived in Paris Gertrude Stein did write about serious, good, innocent women who were always unfortunate and who always did come to bad ends. Gertrude Stein wrote a novel in her own most ambitious rosy style, about innocent women who came to bad ends, that was very plain and true and full ...more
Dec 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who don't feel like they're quite annoying enough at dinner parties yet
Shelves: 2016
Gertrude Stein mounted a sustained attack on language from her salon in Paris, where Ernest Hemingway came to learn most of what he knew about writing on her knee. Hers was one of the great artistic circles: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso were also part of her dazzlingly dangerous scene. She was a major influence on modernism.

Picasso painted her, too, and here she is.

What she isn't is a very good writer herself - at least not here, in this unsettling, unfriendly, experimental book. (And
Feb 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked 3 Lives, Gertrude Stein. I really liked 3 Lives, Gertrude Stein, even though it was a little repetitive. It was a little repetitive but made me think. It made me think, Gertrude Stein, that you are really quite a genius because it is very hard to write this way, Gertrude Stein. Gertrude Stein, thank you.
Eric Cartier
This book almost broke me. Until I went back and found how many beautiful and/or stirring passages I had marked, I was planning to give it the dreaded single star. I started Three Lives last spring and enjoyed "The Good Anna," the relatively brief first story. Then the lengthy "Melanctha" confronted me. In this story, Stein's strangely structured sentences are constantly twisted into different configurations, so that what could be a breezy exchange between two characters becomes an unwieldy, rep ...more
Leni Iversen
The first story, "The Good Anna", was alright. A bit tragicomic and rather vague. The story of the life of a woman of German descent who appears to be an asexual lesbian. I'm not sure. Everything is very vague, and with many repeated phrases, and then Anna dies. Stein is fond of repetitions. They seem to be her main literary device. This story was sort of a three star read, and the main reason why I didn't bail on the second story or rate the book one star. That, and I was sort of mesmerized by ...more
May 16, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I started this with the thought that I would read books that came out exactly 100 years ago ... and all I can say is, sorry, Gertrude. Maybe this was before you met Alice and broadened your horizons.

The first of these stories about everyday women was The Good Anna, a portrait of a single, hardworking, somewhat narrow minded German housekeeper who liked to serve large, lazy, monied women. OK, as far as it went, despite some very odd syntax. But then we get to the second story, about Melancthon He
Feb 16, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Technically I didn't read all of this, but I have decided will never finish Getrude Stein’s Three Lives - my life is just too damn short.

The book consists of three short stories/novellas about three women. The first, which I read in its entirety was titled “The Good Anna” and was about a German woman who lived her life as a servant to a number of wealthy Americans. It was ok – I thought that Stein was somewhat condescending to her character, since she kept repeating how “good” and “simple” she w
(my god the negative reviews for this)

Three Lives is Gertrude Stein's first published work and it is an experimental work. It attempts to tell the inner lives of three women in a unique way that, simply put, repeats everything as often and as awkwardly as possible. There are at times simply lists of general adjectives describing characters. They are good, strong, caring, and gentle. We are told in plain terms what characters are thinking much more than we are told what they are doing, but we sti
Aug 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-novel-2015, 1001
If you want a small taste of Stein's style, try reading The Good Anna, which is a very manageable length. If you like it, brace yourself, and go for Melanctha. You will probably throw the book at the wall before you are through, but hang in there. It's all worth it in the end.
Sep 08, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Worst thing I've ever read
Jane Upshall
Feb 27, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018
Three boring lives should be the title .
Coming out of the pores of this work is a writer in full control of her craft. Gertrude Stein is coming from a place of high concept, with the goal of writing pieces that read the way someone trained in art would view a painting. It starts with the broad overview and then focuses on individual parts, seeing where the lines lead, where certain colors are used, etc. Of course these are not paintings, these are stories; but they’re not quite stories, but “lives”. When you think of your life you thi ...more
Oct 24, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I have always been intrigued by Gertrude Stein and her Lost Generation expat comrades, and I have enjoyed reading some of her poetry, autobiography/memoir, and experimental fiction in the past. I needed something to pass the time while riding a commuter train, so when I chanced upon a copy of this, her first published book which she wrote in 1905-06 and published in 1909, I decided to give it a go.

It consists of biographical sketches of three different women. The first, "The Good Anna," runs 50
B. P. Rinehart
This book of three stories is an interesting piece. It was written by the first significant female writer of the modernist movement and the 20th century at large. Three Lives contains three different stories about women, with the second story, Melanctha, being the highlight and the size of a standard novella.

Now this book has a habit of turning some people off because of its style and the content in the second story. The oral story-telling style that Stein seems to be trying to transcribe to the
Sep 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Three Lives” was written in 1909 in an experimental but direct modernist style that at times is quite repetitive. Each of the three separate stories is set in the same fictional town near Baltimore around the turn of the century and each follows the lives of three working class girls throughout their lives.

Although I did not enjoy the novel, “Three Lives” by Gertrude Stein is a book that I can recommend reading for a couple of reasons.

The novel is quite short and bleak but with a purpose. The
Mar 24, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Please note that I DNF this book at 40 percent. I should have called it at 10 percent actually because this book was a struggle for me to even get into from the start.

I managed the Good Anna's story in this book and started to read Melanchta and had to quit.

The Good Anna storyline was about a German housekeeper. I found it to be repetitive and the constant reusing of the word "good" everywhere almost killed me. Reading about what made Anna the "Good Anna" just felt like I was reading a how to m
Justin Evans
Apr 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I've been reading some of Stein's essays, which are pretty interesting. And I read a William Gass essay about 3 Lives, which was also pretty interesting, and I thought, well, why not?

Why not? Because this book is not particularly interesting. Gass reports reading it in one fevered sitting, then re-reading it obsessively, so deep was his ardor and fascination for the language. I can imagine that, I guess, if it were about one sixth as long (i.e., the length of an average Stein essay). Instead, i
Some thoughts: context matters. Don't read Stein, and especially Three Lives, unless you know what you're getting into, because after the 743th "certainly" you'll certainly want to kill everyone in this book and you'll certainly want to kill everyone around you and please god let it end with the "certainly"s, please, Melanctha darling, please.

Don't, also, "read" this via Walter Zimmerman's 1988 audio book. It's excruciating in the most literal sense of the word. It was the eighties and I'm sure
Mesmerizing prose and thought provoking content, Three Lives is a masterwork of modernist fiction. Engaging with the limited syntactical toolbox that Stein employs is as much fun as coming to understand the arch of these three stories. The novel is a bonified classic.
Moni Smith
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Reading this was slow torture. I made it to page 37 before I couldn't take anymore. If I was still in college and forced to read it for class I would finish. But, thank goodness, my college days are long behind me and I don't have to play by those rules.
Experimental prose. Realist content. Lives and loves of domestic servants.
Camille McCarthy
Feb 17, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was expecting this to be a well-written book at the very least, as Gertrude Stein is so well-known, but it was one of the most terribly written books I've ever read. Additionally the three stories were extremely boring, very vague at times, and seemingly pointless.
The prose of this book is described as "simple" and "straightforward" on the book jacket but it was not straightforward at all, it literally went in circles saying the same exact thing with slightly different words over and over a
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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
“You look ridiculous if you dance
You look ridiculous if you don't dance
So you might as well
More quotes…