I USED to say that I would not go to America until I was a real lion a real celebrity at that time of course I did not really think I was going to be one. But now we were coming and I was going to be one. In America everybody is but some are more than others. I was more than others. New York was coming nearer and we were nervous but not really nervous enough. You never are when a thing is really happening.
So the statue of liberty began and Staten Island. And just then we saw the boat coming. Everybody who has ever done anything has seen reporters. After all there always are newspapers and one has always read them. They are not interesting like books or detective stories but one does read them. Well anyway there we all were and it was very lively and I liked it, I always like talking and I like asking questions and I like to know who everybody is and where they come from.
Strangeness always goes off very quickly, that is one of the troubles with travelling but then the pleasure of looking if you like to look is always a pleasure. Alice Toklas began to complain she said why do they call Paris la ville lumière, she always prefers that anything should be American, I said because when they did there were more lights there than anywhere, you cannot blame them that they still think so although there are more lights here than anywhere. And there were. And more beautifully strung as lights than anywhere except in Spain, and we were walking along and talking and all of a sudden I noticed that Alice Toklas was looking queer and I said what is it and she said my knees are shaking and I said what is it and she said I just happened to see it, the side of the building. She just had happened to see it, and if you do just happen to see one of those buildings well her knees had not shaken not since the first bomb in 1915 had fallen in Paris so the sky scrapers are something.
So then we went on and people said how do you do nicely and we said how do you do to them and we thought how pleasantly New York was like Bilignin where in the country everybody says how do you do in passing the way they do in any country place in the country and then we saw a fruit store and we went in. How do you do Miss Stein said the man, how do you do, I said, and how do you like it, he said, very much, I said, he said it must be pleasant coming back after thirty years, and I said it certainly was. He was so natural about knowing my name that it was not surprising and yet we had not expected anything like that to happen. If anything is natural enough it is not surprising and then we went out again on an Avenue and the elevated railroad looked just like it had ever so long ago and then we saw an electric sign moving around a building and it said Gertrude Stein has come and that was upsetting. Anybody saying how do you do to you and knowing your name may be upsetting but on the whole it is natural enough but to suddenly see your name is always upsetting. Of course it has happened to me pretty often and I like it to happen just as often but always it does give me a little shock of recognition and non-recognition. It is one of the things most worrying in the subject of identity.
Well anyway we went home to the hotel as the English say the Americans say and so we did always come to say and we went to bed and so after the thirty years we went to sleep in beds in a hotel in America.
The next day was a different thing everything was happening and nothing was as strange as it had been, we could see it and we were looking but it would never be again what yesterday had been.
Lecturing was to begin. Carl Van Vechten had arranged that I was to give one a little privately so as to get used to everything. Thank him.
And then Potter of the university extension of Columbia came to see me and he was a nice man. He had been the first person to ask me to lecture, and this was the university extension of Columbia. We had had a pleasant correspondence and there were to be four lectures and he had described the audience as being a few hundred and after the private lecture this was to be my first one.
He said he was pleased that everybody now that everybody had been so excited at my coming everybody was coming to hear me lecture and that there would be many over a thousand in the audience.
I lost everything, I was excited and I said but in that case I would not come. What do you mean, he said, well, I said,
I have written these lectures they are hard lectures to read and it will be hard to listen to them, anybody not used to lecturing cannot hold the attention of more than a roomful of that I was certain and I certainly was not going to read a difficult lecture to more than a thousand of them, you said that there would be no more than five hundred and if there are more than that I will not come. But what can I do, said Potter.
I do not know anything about that, I said, but if there are more than five hundred there I will not come. Does she mean it, said he perplexedly to Alice Toklas, If she says so, said Alice Toklas, she probably will not come. What can I do, said Potter, I do not know, I said, but I am definitely not going to read a difficult lecture to more than five hundred people, it cannot be done, I said. Well, he said and he was a nice man and he left. Of course I was awfully upset I was to speak the next evening before two hundred and that was bad enough. Carl Van Vechten had arranged all that but here was all this trouble and then I was not accustomed to heated apartments, we heat very sparingly in Paris and beside Paris is moist, the food is dry and the air is moist and in New York the food was moist and the air was dry, so gradually I was certain that there was something the matter with my throat and I would not be able to speak anywhere. Anyway before we went to bed Potter telegraphed, everything arranged I have done the impossible sleep peacefully. And that was over. Nothing is immediately over with me but that was over.
Carl Van Vechten said that they had asked him to introduce me for the first lecture and he did not think I would care to be introduced and I said I would not. And I could refuse him because that would be alright and if I refused him then I could never of course accept any one. Beside it was silly everybody knew who I was if not why did they come and why should I sit and get nervous while somebody else was talking. So it was decided from then on that there would be no introduction nobody on the platform a table for me to lean on and five hundred to listen.
But my throat was not any better and so we telephoned to the nice doctor we had met on the Champlain and he came and he said there was nothing the matter, of course there was nothing the matter but it was a pleasure when he said there was nothing the matter and he gave me something and it was a comfort and I was almost ready to begin lecturing. Many people say you go on being afraid when you are alone on the platform but after the first one I never was again. Not at all.
The wooden houses of America excited me as nothing else in America excited me, the sky-scrapers and the streets of course and everybody knowing you of course but not like the wooden houses everywhere. I never stopped being excited by the wooden houses everywhere. I liked them all. Almost best I liked those near the railway stations old ones not very old ones but still old ones with long flat wooden surfaces, painted sometimes not and many near automobile dumps. I liked them all. I do like a flat surface that is the reason I like pictures and do not like sculpture and I like paint even if it is not painted and wood painted or not painted has the color of paint and it takes paint so much better than plaster. In France and in Spain I like barracks because they have so much flat surface but almost I liked best American wooden houses and there are so many of them an endless number of them and endless varieties in them. It is what in America is very different, each one has something and well taken care of or neglect helps them, helps them to be themselves each one of them. Nobody could get tired of them and then the windows they put in. That is one thing any American can do he can put windows in a building and wherever they are they are interesting. Windows in a building are the most interesting thing in America. It is hard to remember them because they are so interesting. Every wooden house has windows and the windows are put in in a way that is interesting. Of course the sky scrapers it is a wrong name because in America there is no sky there is air but no sky of course that has a lot to do with why there really is no painting in America no real painting but it is not necessary when there are houses and windows and air. Less and less there are curtains and shutters on the windows bye and bye there are not shutters and no curtains at all and that worried me and I asked everybody about that. But the reason is easy enough. Everybody in America is nice and everybody is honest except those who want to break in. If they want to break in shutters will not stop them so why have them and other people looking in, well as everybody is a public something and anybody can know anything about any one and can know any one then why shut the shutters and the curtains and keep any one from seeing, they all know what they are going to see so why look. I gradually began to realise all this.
We went to Cambridge over night and I spoke in Radcliffe and at the Signet Club at Harvard. It was funny about Cambridge it was the one place where there was nothing that I recognised nothing. Considering that I had spent four years there it was sufficiently astonishing that nothing was there that I remembered nothing at all. New York Washington East Oakland Baltimore San Francisco were just about as they were they were changed of course but I could find my way there anywhere but Cambridge not at all. I did not go back again perhaps I might have begun again but that day Cambridge was so different that it was as if I had never been there there was nothing there that had any relation to any place that had been there. I lost Cambridge then and there. That is funny.
In between everything I wandered around the streets of New York. The ten cent stores did disappoint me but the nut stores not. In the ten cent stores there was nothing that I wanted and what there was there was not for ten cents. Alice Toklas says they were not a disappointment but nothing in America was a disappointment to her but they were really they were. But the nut stores I had first known of their existence accidentally from Carl Van Vechten when he happened to say that he one day met Henry McBride as Henry was coming out and Carl was going into a nut store. What is that we had asked excitedly what is a nut store. Then later when he was back in New York he did not forget to send us an ad. of a nut store and now here we were and there they were. I was always looking into them.
I also lectured in Brooklyn and that was interesting it was a nice audience but it was not because of that but because I met Marianne Moore and because an attentive young man accidentally closed the door on my thumb and we had to go into a drug store to have it fixed. It was dirty the drug store, one of the few things really dirty in America are the drug stores but the people in them sitting up and eating and drinking milk and coffee that part of the drug store was clean that fascinated me. After that I was always going in to buy a detective novel just to watch the people sitting on the stools. It was like a piece of provincial life in a real city. The people sitting on the stools and eating in the drug store all looked and acted as if they lived in a small country town. You could not imagine them ever being out in the streets of New York, nor the drug store itself being in New York. I never had enough of going into them.
Then we began to have trouble with Chicago, not with the city but with the arrangements for lecturing. There is always war and peace anywhere and we always have a good deal of both of these things and we proceeded to have them. You have to have peace after war and you have to have war after peace and then there is the tug of war when both sides pull and any side starts then the other side goes, there was a good deal of Chicago I like Chicago. I liked Texas and Chicago. Chicago because we had a good deal of trouble with it and Texas because we had none.
We had said that I would lecture in a university any university for one hundred dollars and mostly well really gradually I liked that best and in Chicago nobody in the university had asked me but still I had been asked. It turned out that some students were arranging it and they were to charge a dollar apiece for anybody and of course I did not want that. If I had wanted that everything would have been different and I did not want that. So the trouble began. Everywhere else it had all been easy but here the trouble began. For the first time they were making arrangements that did not please me and I was beginning to say so, and the long distance telephoning that we had heard that everybody did began. So we went on struggling. I said I would not go unless they arranged it the way we wanted it and there we were.
I had not seen the opera1 played naturally not because we were not here and now they were to give a ten days of it in Chicago. They telephoned to us would we go but then how could we go. We wanted to go but how could we go it would take too long. We always think that everything takes long. Well it does.
They telephoned there is plenty of time if you come by airplane. Of course we could not do that we telephoned back, why not, they said, because we never have we said, we will pay you your trip the two of you forward and back they said, we want to see the opera we said but we are afraid. Carl Van Vechten was there while all this was going on, what is it, we explained, oh nonsense he said of course you will fly, we telephoned back if Carl Van Vechten can go with us we will fly, alright they telephoned back we will pay for the three of you. Alright we said and we had to do it. Everybody is afraid but some are more afraid than others. Everything can scare me but most of the things that are frightening are things that I can do without and really mostly unless they happen to come unexpectedly do not frighten me.
I was much more easily frightened before the war. Since the war nothing is so frightening not the dark nor alone in a room or anything on a road or a dog or a moon but two things yes, indigestion and high places they are frightening. One well one always hopes that that will not happen but high places well there is nothing to do about them. I was not really surprised that being high was not frightening.
It was then in a kind of way that I really began to know what the ground looked like. Quarter sections make a picture and going over America like that made any one know why the post cubist painting was what it was. The wandering line of Masson was there the mixed line of Picasso coming and coming again and following itself into a beginning was there, the simple solution of Braque was there and I suppose Leger might be there but I did not see it not over there. Particularly the track of a waggon making a perfect circle and then going back to the corner from where they had come and later in the South as finally we went everywhere by air and always wanted the front seat so I could look down and what is the use, the earth does look like that and even if none of them had seen it and they had not very likely had not but since every one was going to see it they had to see it like that.
So we landed in Chicago and there were many there to meet us, and naturally I had to tell them all about it, somebody always took me away and there were always lots of them there, and I always have something to say and I like to say anything I say.
So we went and rested and then we went to hear the opera. I was less excited about that than I had expected to be. It was my opera but it was so far away.
So we flew back again to New York, Carl was not then with us but it was alright, flying was now a natural thing for us to be doing.
In New York that time Alfred Harcourt asked us to come and week end with them and to go and see the Yale Dartmouth football game.
Two things are always the same the dance and war. One might say anything is the same but the dance and war are particularly the same because one can see them.
That is the way it is. Well anyway we liked going with Harcourt to see the football game. First we drove all through New England not all through later on we drove through a great deal more of it but it was our first driving through it in a motor-car.
I was fascinated with the way everybody did what they should. When I first began driving a car myself in Chicago and in California I was surprised at the slowness of the driving, in France you drive much faster, you are supposed not to have accidents but you drive as fast as you like and in America you drive very slowly forty-five miles an hour is slow, and when lights tell you to stop they all stop and they never pass each other going up a hill or around a curve and yet so many get hurt. It was a puzzle to me.
During the war Clemenceau remarked that one of the things that was most striking was the way the nations were not at all as they were supposed to be, the Englishman was noted for his calm and the English soldiers tended more to be hysterical than any other one, the Americans were supposed to be so quick and they were so slow, the French were supposed to be so gay and they were so solemn. A young French soldier who was one of those who taught the American soldiers how to use the French mitrailleuse told me that to his surprise the Americans understood very quickly the mechanics of the gun but their physical reaction in action was very slow very much slower than the French one, consequently it took more Americans to do anything than it did Frenchmen and so of course it was done less quickly. He also told a story of when he posted the Americans as sentry, he told them that when they heard a sound like quack quack it was not a duck it was a german and he said he told them this and they always understood and then when it was the German they did not disappear quickly enough and the German got them.
Well anyway when we were there at the ball-ground everything was orderly and we went in. The players were longer and thinner than I remembered them, both sides were, they did not seem to have such bulky clothing on them, they seem to move more. But there are two things about football that anybody can like. They live by numbers, numbers are everything to them and their preparation is like any savage dancing, they do what red Indians do when they are dancing and their movement is angular like the red Indians move. When they lean over and when they are on their hands and feet and when they are squatting they are like an Indian dance.
As I say it was not a very exciting game and those around us came to know that I was there, a very little boy came from somewhere and he asked me to write my name, I did. And then from everywhere came programs and would I write my name and then there was a man he was very drunk and his wife was coaxing him along I suppose it was his wife and anyway she was coaxing him along and he said he had to see me he just had to see me and I just had to see him, I did see him and he did see me, and then his wife kept coaxing him and slowly he went away.
And then we took a plane again to Chicago. By that time it was winter.
We saw it was winter from the windows of the Drake Hotel. I had not seen winter for many years and Alice Toklas had never seen it. We liked it.
So we went on spending our two weeks in Chicago, the Hutchins asking us to dinner, Bobsy and Barney Goodspeed were to be there and Thornton Wilder.
We went to dinner it was a good dinner. We were at dinner but Hutchins the president of Chicago University was not there later he came in with Mortimer Adler.
Hutchins was tired and we all sat down again together and then he began talking about what he had been doing. He and Adler were having special classes and in them they were talking over all the ideas that had been important in the world’s history. Every week they took a new idea and the man who had written it and the class read it and then they had a conversation about it.
What are the ideas that are important I asked him. Here said he is the list of them I took the list and looked it over. Ah I said I notice that none of the books read at any time by them were originally written in English, was that intentional I asked him. No he said but in English there have really been no ideas expressed. Then I gather that to you there are no ideas which are not sociological or governmental ideas. Well are there he said, well yes I said. Government is the least interesting thing in human life, creation and the expression of that creation is a damn sight more interesting, yes I know and I began to get excited yes I know, naturally you are teachers and teaching is your occupation and naturally what you call ideas are easy to teach and so you are convinced that they are the only ideas but the real ideas are not the relation of human beings as groups but a human being to himself inside him and that is an idea that is more interesting then humanity in groups, after all the minute that there are a lot of them they do not do it for themselves but somebody does it for them and that is a darn sight less interesting. Then Adler began and I have forgotten what the detail of it was but we were saying violent things to each other and I was telling him that anybody could tell by looking that he was a man who would be singularly unsusceptible to ideas that are created within oneself that he would take to either inside or outside regulation but not to creation, and Hutchins was saying well if you can improve upon what we are doing I challenge you to do it take our class next week and I said of course I will and then Adler said something and I was standing next to him and violently telling him and everybody was excited and the maid came and said Madame the police. Adler went a little white and we all stopped and then burst out laughing. Fanny Butcher hud arranged that Alice Toklas and I should go off that evening in the homicidal squad car and they had come and there they were waiting. Well we all said good-night and we went off with the policemen.
We drove around, we had just missed one homicide it was the only one that happened that evening and it had not been interesting it had been a family affair and everybody could understand everything. The sergeant said he was afraid not much would happen, it was raining and when it rained nobody moved around and if nobody moved around there could not be any homicide unless it was a family affair as this one had been and that was not interesting some day he said when it was a really nice night I will let you know and then you will see something but we did like that night when nothing was happening and we did not stay long enough in Chicago to have a nice night.
So we stayed our two weeks in Chicago and Mrs. Goodspeed took us to the opera and to concerts, one of them was Lohengrin and the other was Salome.
And then the Hutchins asked us to come and nobody was to know anything not even Thornton or Mrs. Goodspeed and we went to dinner and then I went to take over their class with them.
So we all sat around a long table and Hutchins and Adler and I presiding, at least we were not to be but there we were as if we were, well anyway I began talking.
I began to talk and they not Hutchins and Adler but the others began to talk and pretty soon we were all talking about epic poetry and what it was it was exciting we found out a good deal some of it I used in one of the four lectures I wrote for the course I came back to give them but it was all that after all in epic poetry you can have an epic because the death of the man meant the end of everything and now nothing is ending by the death of any one because something is already happening. Well we all came out and they liked it and I liked it and Hutchins said to me as he and I were walking, you did make them all talk more than we can make them and a number of them talked who never talked before and it was very nice of him to say it and he added and if you will come back I will be glad to have you do some teaching and I said I would and he said he would let me know and then I said you see why they talk to me is that I am like them I do not know the answer, you you say you do not know but you do know if you did not know the answer you could not spend your life in teaching but I I really do not know, I really do not, I do not even know whether there is a question let alone having an answer for a question. To me when a thing is really interesting it is when there is no question and no answer, if there is then already the subject is not interesting and it is so, that is the reason that anything for which there is a solution is not interesting, that is the trouble with governments and Utopias and teaching, the things not that can be learnt but that can be taught are not interesting. Well anyway we went away.
It was winter and it went on being winter and we went away to places where we had never been, we went to Wisconsin and Ohio and Indiana and Minnesota and Michigan. We went to Minneapolis. It was still winter but not as winter as it had been in Wisconsin.
It was at this time that my real interest in reporters began. Reporters are mostly young college men who are interested in writing and naturally I was interested in talking with them. Once it may have been in Cleveland or Indianapolis I was talking there were two or three of them and a photographer with them and I said you know it is funny but the photographer is the one of the lot of you who looks as if he were intelligent and was listening now why is that, you do I said to the photographer you do understand what I am talking about dont you. Of course I do he said you see I can listen to what you say because I dont have to remember what you are saying, they cant listen because they have got to remember.
I liked the photographers, there is one who came in and said he was sent to do a lay out of me. A lay out, I said yes he said what is that I said oh he said it is four or five pictures of you doing anything. Alright I said what do you want me to do. Why he said there is your airplane bag suppose you unpack it, Oh I said Miss Toklas always does that oh no I could not do that, well he said there is the telephone suppose you telephone well I said yes but I never do Miss Toklas always does that, well he said what can you do, well I said I can take my hat on and take my hat off and I can put my coat on and I can take it off and I like water I can drink a glass of water alright he said do that so I did that and he photographed while I did that and the next morning there was the lay out and I had done it.
So we went on lecturing at colleges and even in schools in New England. I lectured in mens colleges and in womens colleges, the mens I liked best was Wesleyan, and after the lecture I liked talking to the Wesleyan men. We talked about and that has always been a puzzle to me why American men think that success is everything when they know that eighty per cent of them are not going to succeed more than to just keep going and why if they are not why they do not keep on being interested in the things that interested them when they were college men and why American men different from English American men do not get more interesting as they get older. We talked about that a lot at Wesleyan. Then I liked Mount Holyoke, I liked that the best of the womens colleges in New England, we talked there mostly about the theatre and as they were really interested it was interesting. Afterwards it seemed rather strange to me that the two colleges which were really made to make missionaries were more interesting than those that had been made to make culture and the other professions. It made me wonder a lot about what it is to be American.
I went to the Choate school and they were charming to me. The boys from twelve to sixteen listened really listened to everything I had to say and I talked to them about whether one’s contemporaries were really contemporary. And then later the next morning we had a talk about that. I had been much struck by the Choate school literary magazine which did have extraordinary good writing in it, and now the Utica High School has sent me a Gertrude Stein number and again it is striking how well they are writing. It is a bother.
Once long ago René Crevel and I talked about education. I said that french boys believed in the teaching of their teachers. American boys did not. Later on I talked with France go is d’Aiguy about this. He said french boys who went to the lycées which are controlled by the government did believe in what the teachers believed, and therefore they never did revolt, but boys who went to what in France they call a boîte, a box that is to the religious schools, the catholic schools, they did not have to believe what the teachers believe, they could and did believe in Catholicism but they did not have to believe what the teacher believed and so they did have some intellectual freedom. I said to the Choate teachers I wonder if the boys can ever come to be themselves because you are all so reasonable and so sweet to them that inevitably they are convinced too soon. Is not that the trouble with American education that if they are to be convinced at all they are convinced too soon is it not the trouble with any republican education. Other than republican education does not convince them so most of them do not have any conviction and the few who have are not convinced too soon.
When I first heard about Oklahoma I always thought it was in the northwest, until I really saw it and saw it so close to Texas did I really believe that it is where it does exist. Oklahoma City with its towers that is its sky scrapers coming right up out of the flat oil country was as exciting as when going to Alsace just after the armistice we first saw the Strasbourg cathedral. They do come up wonderfully out of that flat country and it was exciting and seeing the oil wells and the funny shapes they made the round things as well as the Eiffel tower ones gave me a feeling like I have in going to Marseilles and seeing the chimneys come out of the earth and there are no houses or anything near them, it always is a strange looking country that produces that kind of thing, of course Alice Toklas’ father had once almost had an oil well they dug and dug but naturally the oil did not gush, naturally not these things never do happen to any one one knows, if it could happen to them you would not be very likely to know them most naturally not. We did later see in California some small oil fields and the slow movement of the oil wells make it perfectly alright that in America the prehistoric beasts moved slowly. America is funny that way everything is quick but really everybody does move slowly, and the movement of the oil well that slow movement very well that slow movement is the country and it makes it prehistoric and large shapes and moving slowly very very slowly so slowly that they do almost stand still. I do think Americans are slow minded, it seems quick but they are slow minded yes they are.
We were to go to dinner at Beverly Hills which is the same as Hollywood this I have said we were to meet Dashiell Hammett and Charlie Chaplin and Anita Loos and her husband and Mamoulian who was directing everything and we did. Of course I liked Charlie Chaplin he is a gentle person like any Spanish gypsy bull-fighter he is very like my favorite one Gallo who could not kill a bull but he could make him move better than any one ever could and he himself not having any grace in person could move one as no one else ever did, and Charlie Chaplin was like Gallo. Gypsies are intelligent I do not think Charlie Chaplin is one perhaps not but he might have been, anyway we naturally talked about the cinema, and he explained something. He said naturally it was disappointing, he had known the silent films and in that they could do something that the theatre had not done they could change the rhythm but if you had a voice accompanying naturally after that you could never change the rhythm you were always held by the rhythm that the voice gave them. We talked a little about the Four Saints and what my idea had been, I said that what was most exciting was when nothing was happening, I said that saints should naturally do nothing if you were a saint that was enough and a saint existing was everything, if you made them do anything then there was nothing to it they were just like any one so I wanted to write a drama where no one did anything where there was no action and I had and it was the Four Saints and it was exciting, he said yes he could understand that, I said the films would become like the newspapers just a daily habit and not at all exciting or interesting, after all the business of an artist is to be really exciting and he is only exciting when nothing is happening, if anything happens then it is like any other one, after all Hamlet Shakespeare’s most interesting play has really nothing happening except that they live and die but it is not that that is interesting and I said I was sure that it is true that an Interesting thing is when there is nothing happening, I said that the moon excited dogs because it did nothing, lights coming and going do not excite them and now that they have seen so many of them the poor things can no longer see the moon and so no lights can excite them, well we did not say all this but that is what we meant, he wanted the sentiment of movement invented by himself and I wanted the sentiment of doing nothing invented by myself, anyway we both liked talking but each one had to stop to be polite and let the other say something. After dinner they all gathered around me and asked me what I thought of the cinema, I told them what I had been telling Charlie Chaplin, it seemed to worry them and at last I found out what was bothering them they wanted to know how I had succeeded in getting so much publicity, I said by having a small audience, I said if you have a big audience you have no publicity, this seemed to worry them and naturally it would worry them they wanted the publicity and the big audience, and really to have the biggest publicity you have to have a small one, yes alright the biggest publicity comes from the reallest poetry and the reallest poetry has a small audience not a big one, but it is really exciting and therefore it has the biggest publicity, alright that is it. Well after a little while we left, it had been an amusing evening.
We went to Berkeley and they had invited me I think it was the Phi Beta Kappa to lunch, and during the lunch there were a lot of them there everybody asked a question not everybody but a good many, they thought I answered them very well the only thing I remember is their asking why I do not write as I talk and I said to them if they had invited Keats for lunch and they asked him an ordinary question would they expect him to answer with the Ode To The Nightingale. It is funny everybody knows but of course everybody knows that writing poetry that writing anything is a private matter and of course if you do it in private then it is not what you do in public. We used to say when we were children if you do it in private you will do it in public and we did not then say if you do it in public you will do it in private. Well anyway when you say what you do say you say it in public but when you write what you do write you write it in private if not you do not write it, that is what writing is, and in private you are you and in public you are in public and everybody knows that, just read Webster’s Mr. and Mrs. everybody knows that but when they ask questions well then they are neither public nor private they are just fat-headed yes yes. That is what Virgil Thomson says yes yes. What is the use of asking questions, either you know your answer or you do not, mostly you do know your answer and certainly any question has no answer so why question the answer or answer the question.
And so we took the airplane to go back to Chicago we stopped at Omaha and really we did not stop in Chicago only for the night and then we went on back to New York. The Rockefeller Center building was finished it all was a pleasure and that was a pleasure and they all seemed as pleased to see me as they had been, Alice Toklas said they now said there goes Miss Stein before they had said there goes Gertrude Stein well anyway having them say it was still a pleasure and then everything was all over and we got on the Champlain to go back to Paris again.
Before we went on the Champlain I asked Bennett Cerf about my writing, I always want what I have written to be printed and it has not always happened no not mostly happened and now I timidly said something to him, he said it is very simple whatever you decide each year you want printed you tell me and I will publish that thing, just like that I said, just like that, he said, you do the deciding, and so we happily very happily went on to the Champlain.
- Four Saints in Three Acts. — EDITOR↩