Local author Roy Morris Jr. has just published his ninth book, Gertrude Stein Has Arrived: The Homecoming of a Literary Legend. The book focuses on the six-month-long tour of America that Stein made with her partner, Alice Toklas, in the autumn and winter of 1934-35 to promote her surprise bestseller, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.
The couple, who had hosted a celebrated artistic salon in Paris during the 1920s, had not returned to their native country for more than 30 years. Over the course of their homecoming they visited 37 cities in 23 states, meeting a wide array of the famous and the not-so-famous. They took tea with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House, dined with Charlie Chaplin in Hollywood, met with the Raven Society in Edgar Allan Poe’s old dorm room at the University of Virginia, enjoyed 50-yard-line seats at the Yale-Dartmouth football game, and rode along with a homicide detective through the streets of Chicago.
Everywhere they went, Gertrude and Alice were treated like everyone’s favorite maiden aunts—colorful, eccentric and eminently quotable. Revisiting her childhood home in Oakland, Ms. Stein uttered a phrase that instantly became legendary: “There is no there there.” It rivals her best-known, if often misquoted, line: “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.”
For the remaining 11 years of her life, Ms. Stein would be one of the most famous writers in the world. Mr. Morris’s new book, described by the Wall Street Journal as “sparkling and lively,” explains how she got that way.
Mr. Morris, a former reporter for the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga News-Free Press, is a contributing editor for MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History and is the author of eight previous books on American history and literature, including Sheridan: The Life and Wars of General Phil Sheridan; Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company; The Better Angel: Walt Whitman in the Civil War; Fraud of the Century: Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden, and the Stolen Election of 1876; The Long Pursuit: Abraham Lincoln’s Thirty-Year Struggle with Stephen Douglas for the Heart and Soul of America; Lighting Out for the Territory: How Samuel Clemens Headed West and Became Mark Twain; Declaring His Genius: Oscar Wilde in North America; and American Vandal: Mark Twain Abroad.
He resides in North Chattanooga with his wife, Leslie, the director of Northside Learning Center, and their mixed-breed terrier, Duncan.