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Three Lives  By  cover art

Three Lives

By: Gertrude Stein
Narrated by: Walter Zimmerman
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Publisher's Summary

In this, the most memorable of her works, Gertrude Stein paints striking portraits of three women. "The Good Anna" is the story of a sober housekeeper of German stock. "The Gentle Lena" is concerned with a passive German girl who endures her woeful life until she dies in childbirth. "Melanetha" tells of a young, intelligent, half-white girl's sexual searching and tragic love affair.

These stories reveal a young Gertrude Stein, who has begun to experiment with language but is still rooted to some extent in traditional narrative.

©1988 Jimcin Recordings

Critic Reviews

"A fine new kind of realism. (William James)
"First true representation of an African-American in American literature." (Richard Wright)

What listeners say about Three Lives

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

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I normally put my review of the production of the audiobook at the end. Except for when the production is bad. The production was bad. So, I've not put the review of the production at the end. The production was bad because it sounded like it was a copy of a tape that wasn't the master tape. It sounded like someone used a cheap Walmart microphone and recorded it on tape that had been left in Gertrude Stein's hot Parisian attic, and was trying to salvage the recording by playing the tape in the bathroom and recording it with a Walmart microphone in the bathroom. They used a Walmart microphone and used an old tape and it sounded so bad I couldn't put the production part of the review at the end. I had to put it at the beginning. Because it was that bad.

****

These stories were certainly interesting. Each of these stories was interesting. Certainly, after reading them, I thought each of the stories by Gertrude Stein interesting. When I read them, I never knew if I could stand them enough to find them interesting. I did, however, stand them and by the end I did find them mostly interesting.

The second story was certainly the strongest. The second story was "Melanctha" and I think it was the strongest. It certainly was the longest. The flow of this novella, although long and repetitive, was still strong. "The Good Anna" was the first story and wasn't as long as the longest story which was "Melanctha". The last story was "The Gentle Lena" which could have been named "the Passive Lena". Everybody bosses Lena around, which makes her passive. That is why it could have been named The Passive Lena. But it was the last story, and Stein called it "The Gentle Lena" and she is the boss of her own book I guess. She wasn't passive about naming the stories in her own book. It was her book.

I didn't hate these stories and found these experimental stories interesting. I just didn't love them. Each of the stories was interesting. The most interesting was "Melanctha". "Melanctha" was the longest, but also most interesting. Perhaps it was the race theme of "Melanctha". Anyway, I'm glad I read these interesting, repetitive stories which I didn't love. I found each interesting. Just not interesting to read again and while I trusted the stories I just couldn't love them, or keep my mind from wandering.

15 people found this helpful

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Fine literature. Terrible production.

The production value is abysmal. The sound is thin and distorted. It also echoes. Difficult to get beyond that. Finis.

3 people found this helpful

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Mechanic narrator

Fascinating and important book for the advancement of literary modernism but the narrator is so mechanic (is it a computer?) that it seriously detracts from the experience.

1 person found this helpful

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Not a great quality recording

First things first, the recording is not great. The narration is fine but the sound is quite tinny.

As for the story...it's funny to think that Gertrude Stein was so friendly with Ernest Hemingway, known for his very concise prose. Stein is very repetitive and the repetition of the main character's name in the middle novella of the same name, Melanctha, kind of became unbearable in the audio format. Had I been reading, I might have been better able to ignore how annoying it was. Out of curiosity I searched the name in my ebook version and it occurs over one thousand times.

Here's a sample: "I knew you had been free in your ways, Melanctha, I knew you liked to get excitement the way I always hate to see the colored people take it. I didn't know, till I heard Jane Harden say it, you had done things so bad, Melanctha. When Jane Harden told me, I got very sick, Melanctha. I couldn't bear hardly, to think, perhaps I was just another like them to you, Melanctha. I was wrong not to trust you perhaps, Melanctha, but it did make things very ugly to me. I try to be honest to you, Melanctha, the way you say you really want it from me."

Imagine having paragraphs like that read aloud to you for several hours.

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Archaic, racist text in shitty fidelity.

A laughable caricature of blackness and the working class penned by an out-of-touch elitist. Please, for the love of God, read something actually written by a person of color instead of this drivel.

Also, this is the worst recording I've heard on audible: tinny and warbled like the sound of a headache. Save your money and just pirate this book please.

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Genius

What made the experience of listening to Three Lives the most enjoyable?

Three Lives was most enjoyable because it was a great depiction of regular people in everyday relationships. The repetition of the sentences was a great technique to show how we say over an over the things we are pondering either to ourselves or to others. It really was a great tale of the different cultures it represented between the venacular and the thought processes having to do with the particular culture of blacks and Germans, etc. Loved it. I felt it was very true to life.

What does Walter Zimmerman bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The story telling was straight forward, matter of fact and a little fast like our thoughts, like our obsessions are....he really got it down well the way people interact, the idiocyncracies of personalities and the cultural concerns.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

The internal churning of life