Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Making of Americans” as Want to Read:
The Making of Americans
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Making of Americans

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  495 ratings  ·  55 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. ...more
Paperback, 926 pages
Published December 1st 1995 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1925)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  495 ratings  ·  55 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Making of Americans
May 26, 2013 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
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
Dec 03, 2014 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
May 03, 2017 marked it as to-read
Huh. Just got this email from the Bezosian overlords at GR:

"Hi Geoff,

We're reaching out because your review of The Making of Americans was recently brought to our attention. Since much of the review was copied from Nathan's review posted the year before, it has been removed from the site. A copy has been attached for your reference.

Reproducing content without the user's permission violates our Terms of Service. Please refrain from posting reviews like this in the future.

The Goodreads
Mar 14, 2009 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
Mar 04, 2010 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
Leo Robertson
Sep 11, 2012 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
Phillip Hays
Feb 11, 2009 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." ...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.
Apr 05, 2007 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. ...more
Jun 26, 2007 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. ...more
May 14, 2007 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.
Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: masochists
I don't believe I have ever felt such a simultaneous mix of both love and hate for any book, ever.

Let's start with a short quiz based on what others have often said about this book.
I will try to answer and respond to each of these claims of excessive praise or vilification.

Is this book unusual? Yes, highly.
Is this book repetitious? You can say that again.
Tedious? Unfortunately yes (mostly)
Was this book revolutionary? For its time, undoubtedly it was.
Was this book enjoyable to read? Both yes an
I said I was going to do it. And so I did it. I pushed through the pointless repetition, the rare moments of transcendence, the futility of it all. And so in doing it I am repeating the repetition, I am rendering the futility futile. I am not transcending. In a repeating way, I am showing the repetition and the futility. Andrew was a futile being.

I can't.

Werner Herzog famously called his dragging of a steamboat over a mountain in the Peruvian rainforest a “conquest of the useless.” Stein did bet
كوماروف مايكل
Sep 03, 2014 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
Erik F.
Aug 14, 2012 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. ...more
Mar 21, 2017 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
Aug 13, 2020 rated it did not like it
"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 . . . [Stein] is one of the most eminent of the idiots."

James Thurber
Mar 13, 2008 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
Jul 25, 2011 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 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
Jul 14, 2008 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." ...more
Jun 27, 2009 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.
Dec 29, 2007 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
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.
Henry Cesari
Sep 27, 2013 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. ...more
May 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 14, 2008 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) ...more
Claudia Keelan
Jan 05, 2013 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 ...more
Jun 03, 2015 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.

« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Nadja
  • Nightwood
  • The Well of Loneliness
  • Parade's End
  • Manhattan Transfer
  • Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass
  • Homie
  • Story of the Eye
  • The Book of X
  • Playing to the Gallery
  • The Human Condition
  • Red Harvest
  • Under the Sign of the Labyrinth
  • The Artifact
  • Old Rendering Plant
  • The Souls of Black Folk
  • The Enigma
  • The Thinking Reed
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
49 likes · 21 comments
“I write for myself and strangers.” 10 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.” 5 likes
More quotes…