Author and poet Gertrude Stein had an approach to writing that divided audiences, the unimpressed of whom found her rhythmical repetition and stream-of-consciousness style simply impenetrable and nonsensical. For others, it was, and remains, a breath of fresh air; something unique, to be savoured. In 1912, having just read one of her more repetitive manuscripts, The Making of Americans, publisher Arthur C. Fifield rejected Stein with this wonderful, light-hearted letter that perfectly mimicked the technique for which she was famous.
FROM ARTHUR C. FIFIELD, PUBLISHER,
13, CLIFFORD’S INN, LONDON, E.C.
TELEPHONE 14430 CENTRAL.
April 19, 1912.
I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.
Many thanks. I am returning the M.S. by registered post. Only one M.S. by one post.
(Signed ‘A. C. Fifield’)
Miss Gertrude Stein,
27 Rue de Fleurus,