19 October 2006


A reading group I helped start is currently reading Geography & Plays, by Gertrude Stein. This week I was stopped cold by her portrait titled "Braque." It's an open (at least I think it is, so far) circle of soundings. Just in the first three paragraphs, I've tracked soundings of "k" sounds (17 instances), , "er" sounds (46 instances), "a" vowel sounds (74 instances), and nine other separate patterns of multiple-syllable or at least multiple-letter sounds, either operating globally (within these three paragraphs) or locally (within one to three consecutive sentences). Some of these patterns are word-centered and seem to have more to do with the meaning of words and sentences; others seem more purely to delight in sounding the language.

At times there is a kind of opening out of sound, as with the phrase "interest and earnest and outset," where the last word, in a way out sets one of the predominant sounds of the first two nouns, i.e. the "st" sound becomes "s" and "t" separated by a vowel, in "set," or "s" and "t" are outed.

There is one group of sentences that I find particularly curious.It occurs at the end of the second paragraph, and before the third paragraph, which is the single sentence, "This was not past a future."
There are in a circle. They are tendering a circle. They are a tender circle. They are tenderly a circle.
I am very tempted to think that in the first sentence of the group, "There are" is a mistake, possibly typographical, uncorrected in proofreading, and should be "They are," as with the other sentences. But because there are sound patterns for which the word "there" would be appropriate, I am not sure about this possible error.

I have made color-coated pages showing these sound patterns, and my next step is to somehow interpose these pages over one another, and see if there are relationships I have not noticed (and with Stein, I imagine there are always relationships one has not noticed). I would be particularly pleased to confirm that there is a kind of circular sounding going on.

I may write more about this later.