Shucks, we've got glamour girls too! Gertrude Stein, Bennett Cerf and the culture of celebrity

2016-03-14T10:54:53Z (GMT) by Lise Jaillant
© The Trustees of Indiana University. September 1933 was a turning point in Gertrude Stein's career. That month, Alfred Harcourt published The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and Bennett Cerf issued Three Lives in the Modern Library, a series of cheap reprints marketed as "the world's best books." While most scholars have linked Stein's celebrity to the Autobiography, the publication of her experimental texts by the Modern Library and Random House has been largely overlooked. This article is organized around two central claims. First, it shows that unlike Alfred Harcourt, Cerf adopted a long-term strategy by publishing Stein's difficult writings, as well as her more accessible texts. Second, from 1934, Cerf used new media to position Stein as an atypical literary star. After the publication of Three Lives, he organized her tour in America and promoted her using his knowledge of the Hollywood entertainment industry. Blurring the boundaries between print and broadcasting, Cerf created a unique strategy for marketing Stein, a strategy that enabled her to stand out in a crowded literary marketplace.