A Story is a Story is a Story

First and foremost, I found it best to hear this piece aloud, it made the peculiar structure much easier to understand. Particularly, I found this video to be helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHuAfy6FSyQ (I listened to it at 1.5x the speed since it is super slow).

The story presents an odd juxtaposition of short, decisive syntax telling a complex, jarring story. Miss Furr and Miss Skeene presents a tale of a young woman, Helen Furr, leaving her husband and falling for a woman named Georgine Skeene. Deceivingly short, Stein summarizes the initial smoke of romance into a curt “Helen Furr and Georgine Skeene lived together then.” No winding tale of emotional distress or harsh, raw feelings—simply a sentence of cohabitation. As much as I find the syntax and Stein’s dexterous diction appalling, it is equally as comforting. Throughout the piece, the repetition and short sentences send off a vibe of warmth and familiarity: “They stayed in a place and were gay there, both of them stayed there, they stayed together there, then were gay there, they were regularly gay there.” It is ensuring the reader that being gay (in both definitions of the word) is a-okay!

In fact, the directness of the story can be interpreted as a gash at heteronormative culture, a sort of stick-it-to-the-cishet-man that a love story knows no gender identity. Stein does not need to elaborate every twinkle or heated glance, she can tell a story of liberation, love, and loss all under four pages, even with queer characters. Stein is able to simply let her characters breathe and live their own lives free from the pen and societal constraints. Miss Furr and Miss Skeene live an endless life in between every sentence.

 

The ending of the piece neglects to mention the outcome of Georgine Skeene’s departure. Why do you think Stein intentionally left that out of the story when she could’ve added as little as one sentence to explain her departure?

In your opinion, do you find the blunt nature of the piece as genius or inhibiting to the commoner to understand? How do you think the 1925 Vanity Fair audience responded to the stylistic choices? Would the innovative usage of the word gay cause a problem among the readership?

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