Gertrude Stein was writing "The Making of
Americans," a man in California was taking 16mm movies of his family;
document the middle-class which Stein was recreating by her exploration
of style was being lived by a family in California.
Gertrude writes, “It
is a great privilege, this, of being an American,” and the family in
this film, with their new homes, vacations cabin, cross-country trips
and their camera, knew this and knew, instinctively, that they were the
backbone of the country.
Gertrude Stein and this
family came together when I was given a box of 16mm films and an old
projector that had been cleaned out of a Tenderloin hotel. Watching the
film, I thought of Stein’s recurrent themes of family living and family
existence and of repetition. The eight hours of film was edited to 25
minutes and a script was prepared of excerpts from “The Making of
Americans.” A third element – the music of the Mom and Dads – was added.
This evening is an
opportunity to see these three various elements performed together.
- Russell Ellison
* * *
A FAMILY AND ITS PROGRESS
By Russell Ellison
Narrative from "The Making of Americans"
by Gertrude Stein
Reading by sk dunn
* * *
It has always seemed to
me a rare privilege, this, of being an American, a real American, one
whose tradition it has taken scarcely sixty years to create.
We need only realize
our parents, remember our grandparents and know ourselves and our
history is complete.
The old people in a
new world, the new people made out of the old, that is the story I mean
to tell, for that is what really is and what I really know.
Certain men and
women and the children they had in them, to make many generations for
them, will fill up this history for us of a family and its progress.
And these women and
the husbands they had with them and the children born and unborn in them
will make up the history for us of a family and its progress.
Some of all these
kinds of men and women and the children they had in them will help to
make the history for us of this family and its progress.
And so listen while I
tell you all about us, and wait while I hasten slowly forward and love,
please this history of this decent family’s progress.
* * *
I have it, this interest
in ordinary middle class existence, in simple firm ordinary middle class
traditions, in sordid, material, unaspiring visions, in repeating,
common, decent enough kind of living, with no fine kind of fancy ways
inside us, no excitements to surprise us, no new ways of being bad or
good to win us.
Yes, I am strong to
declare that I have it, here in the heart of this high, aspiring
excitement loving people who despise it – I throw myself open to the
public – I take a simple interest in the ordinary kind of families’
histories, I believe in simple middle class monotonous tradition.
I know of no one of my friends who will admit it, one can find no one
among you all to belong to it, I know that here we are to be democratic
and aristocratic and not have it, for middle class is sordid material
unillusioned, unaspiring and always monotonous for it is always there
and to be always repeated, and yet I am strong, and I am right, and I
know it, and I say it to you and you are to listen to it.
Yes here in the heart of
a people who despise it, that a material middle class who know they are
it, with the straightened bond of family to control it, is the one thing
always human, vital, and worthy it.
Worthy that all
monotonously shall repeat it, and from which has always sprung, and all
who really look can see it, the very best the world can ever know, and
everywhere we always need it.
Someone was standing and
doing something. He was doing that thing. He was standing and doing
something. He was doing something and he was standing. He was one some
one was seeing. Some were seeing him doing something and standing.
Some one has been
standing up and is then doing something. Some one is doing something
standing. Any one will do something standing. Some one has been
standing in doing something. Certainly any one is standing in doing
Any one doing anything
is expecting to be one doing or not doing anything. Any one in any
family living is one doing or not doing something, and is one then
expecting to be one then doing or not doing something.
When some one has done
something, that one might then do that thing again.
* * *
Certain men and women
and the children they had in them, to make many generations for them,
fill up this history for us of a family and its progress.
It was their children
and grandchildren who, later, wandering over the new land, where they
were seeking first, just to make a living, and then later, either to
grow rich or to gain wisdom, met with one another and were married, and
so together they made a family whose progress we have been watching.
* * *
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