Author of the Month: Logan EsdalePublished: April 16, 2012
Ida A Novel
Edited by Logan Esdale, lecturer, English
Published in December 2011 by Yale University Press, the novel Ida by legendary Lost Generation author Gertrude Stein is now available in a workshopped edition created by English’s Logan Esdale. Stein (1874-1946) was born in Pennsylvania and moved to Paris in 1903 for the rest of her life. She published Ida A Novel in 1941, eight years after she became famous for her best-selling Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. As Stein worked on this novel from 1937-40, she saved all of the manuscripts as part of constructing an archive of her life’s work at Yale University Library. Esdale explains that by saving a complete record of the creative process, Stein showed her readers how she wrote. On her way to completing the novel, Stein incorporated four separate texts. In this edition, the first to display Stein’s working process so comprehensively, readers will have a genealogy of the manuscripts, her letters, the novel’s relation to other Stein texts, its reception in the popular press, essays by Stein and by her main interlocutor then, Thornton Wilder, and the story that the Ida character was based primarily on Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor who in 1936 prompted King Edward VIII’s renunciation of the British throne so that they could marry. Ida is arguably Stein’s most feminist text. In comparing the male desire to possess women with the media’s stalking of celebrities, the narrative discusses the threat of violence that can accompany women-as-celebrities. Stein wanted Ida to be known as a novel about a woman in the age of celebrity culture and as a text with its own story to tell. “When Ida becomes a celebrity, instead of men following her and wanting things from her, now it is photographers,” he explained. “They, too, think that they know her. They feel they can approach her, ask her questions and take her photo. She is a well-known figure.” Stein compares the experience of being a woman with the experience of being a celebrity. With the publication of
this workshop edition of Ida, readers have the novel exactly as it was published in 1941 accompanied by the full record of its creation. Stein’s careful and systematic preservation of all “Ida”-related materials for her archive at the Yale University Library was a conscious decision and an invitation for scholars to study her creative process. Esdale, a native of Canada, received his master’s degree from the University of Western Ontario and his doctorate from SUNY Buffalo in 2003. He taught at Chapman University before joining CSULB.