We Are All Alice B. Toklas

Toklasization, being the condition of failing to materialize in one’s autobiography, or of being ghostwritten out by a biographer with more vanity than ours, has become the most significant cause of suicide and psychopathology in North America. Toklasization is the condition of fame failed or failing. Toklasization occurs at the moment when one surrenders aspiration and slips back down the glass mountain of one’s ambition; it occurs when one is not included in the introductions at a party; it happens when brand names overcome the individual. Toklasization is the assumption of one’s agency where none exists. Toklasization is the shattering realization that the reflection is subservient to the mirror and that the mirror may be removed from the wall leaving nothing.

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Ghosttown – No Ghost, photograph by Megan Baker

Because Alice B. Toklas is the non-emblem of our disappearance, also Alice B. Toklas is the medium of our self-erasure, an ineffable self to whom we report, but whose non-being, whose spectrality and disappearance result in our spectrality and disappearance. Alice B. Toklas imagined that she was real herself. She was made to disappear like a dissident, walking in concrete shoes under the deluging sewers of Paris while Gertrude Stein and Picasso argued over a stolen morsel of bread. They were all secretly miserable but misery does not love company so extraordinary rendition was invented by Gertrude Stein because three is a crowd. The more we confide to the Toklas who walks beside us, then the more we become spectral and disappearing.

The suicide, the psychopath, the serial killer, the media personality have spent such significant time reporting themselves to Toklas, who is supposed to be fame and famous, that they have come to suspect that even she is not listening, or perhaps does not even exist, and as Gertrude Stein said a gun is a gun is a gun is a gun, and looking for Alice B. Toklas is like looking for God in the Bible: it is supposed that She will be discovered within, but She is not there. Reasonably, you may ask are we not then Gertrude Stein, and if you believe that the superimposition of your third-person pronoun onto the screen of another makes you Gertrude Stein then you are welcome to that delusion as is Gertrude Stein, who was always welcome and deluded. Reasonably, you cannot be Gertrude Stein. Gertrude Stein was invented by Alice B. Toklas who propelled her forth with rhopography and repetition only to be betrayed by Gertrude Stein whose rendition of her maker was extraordinary, and who ghost-wrote her like an erased De Kooning, barely even a grimace remaining. It is reasonably unlikely that in inventing Gertrude Stein that Alice B. Toklas who invented her had you in her mind confused with Gertrude Stein. Gertrude Stein is a subsidiary of The Gertrude Stein Corporation and she is corporeal and corporate even while you are not because you are Alice B. Toklas and history belongs to the victors.

Toklasization is shouting oneself hoarse against bureaucracy. Gertrude Stein is bureaucratic, and she will fill your pages with herself. Toklasization is being pepper-sprayed in the eyes, and the last image on your burnt retinas is a cop with a Roman haircut who is Gertrude Stein. Incidentally, Gertrude Stein looks like John Giorno who looks and writes like Gertrude Stein, but John Giorno does not like to pepper spray the innocent or impotent. Toklasization is impotence, and you may become impotent, redundant and anonymous while other names go in place of yours. Therefore, remember that Gertrude Stein is Caesar and Caesar’s wife is Gertrude Stein and we are all Alice B. Toklas.

–James Reich

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