Descriptions of Literature: Gertrude Stein

Handwritten by Erica Van Horn

“Gertrude Stein’s sentences Descriptions of Literature were written by hand. Her line length was not made by any particular decision. The length of her lines was determined by the width of her ruled notebook page. I did not worry about my line length being shorter than hers. I did not even think about it. Her sentences went from handwriting and later they were typeset and now they are handwritten again. This is just the way things sometimes happen.

Writing someone else’s list has been a joy. Handwriting these sentences by Stein has provided me with a glorious kind of escape. It is not my writing. It is her writing. I am not the author. I am the writer. But as I am writing her writing, it demands all of my attention not to change things to make them into my own.

As I write one of her sentences in this list of descriptions, I decide that the sentence I am writing right then is my absolute favourite of these sentences and then when I am involved in another sentence and I have to write it again and again to get it written right, I decide that that sentence is my favourite in this list of sixty-six sentences.

Having a favourite is just a small thing because I am immediately on to the next sentence and once again I must copy and consider and write as carefully as my poor stiffening hand will allow. This is an exercise in restraint but it is a freedom too. I love the physical and hypnotic movement of my pen on the page. I love writing by hand.”

Erica van Horn

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