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Tender Buttons [Paperback]

Gertrude Stein
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 10 1997
Before becoming the patron of Lost Generation artists, Gertrude Stein established her reputation as an innovative author whose style was closer to painting than literature. Stein's strong influence on 20th-century literature is evident in this 1915 work of highly original prose rendered in thought-provoking experimental techniques.

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Product Description

From Library Journal

Self-published in 1914, this is one of the volumes that solidified Stein's reputation. Dividing the book into three sectionsAObjects, Food, and RoomsAStein attempts to form images using repetition and disjointed words. As the average person will find that it makes no sense at all, Stein's exercise in automatic writing remains in the realm of the literati.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was an American-Jewish writer, poet and art collector who spent most of her life in France. While living in Paris, Gertrude began writing for publication. Her earliest writings were mainly retellings of her college experiences. Her first critically acclaimed publication was Three Lives. Sherwood Anderson in his public introduction to Stein's 1922 publication of Geography and Plays wrote: "For me the work of Gertrude Stein consists in a rebuilding, an entirely new recasting of life, in the city of words. Here is one artist who has been able to accept ridicule, who has even forgone the privilege of writing the great American novel, uplifting our English speaking stage, and wearing the bays of the great poets to go live among the little housekeeping words, the swaggering bullying street-corner words, the honest working, money saving words and all the other forgotten and neglected citizens of the sacred and half forgotten city. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stein's dance of words June 2 2002
Format:Paperback
"Tender Buttons," by Gertrude Stein, is a short work (52 plus ix pages in the Dover edition) which one could classify as a collection of prose poems. The Dover edition includes a short introduction; it notes that the book was initially published in 1914.
"Tender Buttons" is divided into three sections: "OBJECTS," "FOOD," and "ROOMS." The first two sections are further subdivided into short entries: "A RED STAMP," "A BOX," "A PLATE," etc. Thus it seems like Stein is presenting the poetic version of a series of still lifes.
Stein often uses repetition, alliteration, and other rhythmic techniques. She totally liberates her compositions from standard syntax and punctuation. Words are strung together in odd combinations. Ultimately she creates a playful, even musical dance of words across the pages.
But I must admit I found this dance largely incoherent. It often reads like some pidgin variant of English, or like the writings of someone who has suffered a neurological trauma to the language center of her brain. I could also compare it to some sort of secret code language of an occult society.
Examples of the style in this book: "Apple plum, carpet steak, seed clam, colored wine, calm seen, cold cream, best shake, potato, potato and no no gold work with pet, a green seen is called bake and change sweet is bready, a little piece a little piece please" (from "APPLE"); "A curving example makes righteous finger-nails" (from "ROOMS").
The book as a whole has an experimental feel, and while I'm not sure how successful the experiment is, "Tender Buttons" is nonetheless quite a remarkable work. At times it's even fun. My suggestion: read sections of the book aloud to someone who does not speak or understand English, and ask them how the pure musicality of the language strikes them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars (un)lost generation May 13 2004
Format:Paperback
Mimic and talk and write like some kind of Gertrude Stein. We don't know what roots are - rootless - my generation is not lost - we're staying put on the couch where we live. No one can say we're not (or are) expatriate because the shores of our big sea end at the edges of a computer screen - are virtual (and not) reality - no one travels to get there. No hurt feelings (disaffected) because we're all equal - a populist nightmare with the volume turned down. The self-leveling society. Every idea is as good as another is as good as none as all are included. Our defects become differences become diversity become democracy become diluted and die. An eye for an eye made the whole world blind or one-eyed and only some (although they don't want to be singled out) try to make something new something cyclopean (formerly one could say at least but that is pejorative) toward the future but that detracts from the past which we defend on principle only but not in actuality so as soon as we can think of it we'll change that name too but don't pressure us.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Modernist Classic That's Fun to Read Oct. 9 2002
Format:Paperback
The playfulness & intellectual rigor of the best of the
Modernist movement unite in this small book of exquisite
prose poems that may be read, on one level at least, as
an extended allegory of eroticism (e.g. "tender buttons"
are nipples); & on another, as a manifesto of what was
to become L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry. But you don't really need
to be a scholar to appreciate the freshness & lovely
rhythms of the poems. They are like nothing else that
existed at the the time they were written (not even the
great Victorian "nonsense" poets dared to be this non-referential)
& though they have cast a long shadow across late 20c. PoMo,
there really has been nothing quite like them since.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars Modernist Classic That's Fun to Read Oct. 9 2002
Format:Paperback
The playfulness & intellectual rigor of the best of the
Modernist movement unite in this small book of exquisite
prose poems that may be read, on one level at least, as
an extended allegory of eroticism (e.g. "tender buttons"
are nipples); & on another, as a manifesto of what was
to become L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry. But you don't really need
to be a scholar to appreciate the freshness & lovely
rhythms of the poems. They are like nothing else that
existed at the the time they were written (not even the
great Victorian "nonsense" poets dared to be this non-referential)
& though they have cast a long shadow across late 20c. PoMo,
there really has been nothing quite like them since.
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