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Tender Buttons Paperback – July 10, 1997

3.8 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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 born in Pittsburgh to a prosperous German-Jewish family. She was educated in France and the United States, worked under the pioneering psychologist William James, and later studied medicine. With her brother Leo she was an important patron of the arts, acquiring works by many contemporary artists, most famously Picasso, while her home became a popular meeting place for writers and painters from Matisse to Hemingway. Her books include Three Lives, Tender Buttons, and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; unknown edition (July 10, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486298973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486298979
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on October 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
Stein has taken on a great challenge to break conventional ways of looking at words. Her desire to raise herself out of the "box" of literary tradition and create her own space and shape has resulted this fine book. Many hours can be spent on this thin volume, but yet it wouldn't be enough time to discover all the devises she employs. I became excited not because of her interesting juxtaposing of unrelated, and very strange yet unique, images, but also her ability to keep moving the words. For example, in the section titled Objects, Ms Stein has several poems that use repetition as a devise to create rhythm. In one poem, "A Seltzer Bottle" the repetition of "s" sounds shake up the poem. Certainly she asks us to question what a word means and how meaning can be easily manipulated, but she also is a master of "sound over sense." In "A Red Hat" she connects independent clauses, sentences, or lines by repeating a word from the previous independent clause, sentence, or line. "A dark grey, a very dark grey, a quite dark grey is monstrous ordi-/ narily, it is so monstrous because there is no red in it. If red is in/ everything it is not necessary. Is that not an argument for any use of/ it and even so is there any place that is better, is there any place that/ has so much stretched out." "Grey" melts into "monstrous", "monstrous" into "red", and "red" into "is".
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Format: Paperback
I don't have as much patience as some with Stein's other work, but "Tender Buttons" is sublime. It leads the mind down paths it would never otherwise follow. I'm basically a philistine, and a populist, but this book never loses its splendour. Here (and here only, for me) Gertrude Stein had perfect pitch.
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By A Customer on June 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
Utter frustration at the first glance -- however, once you come to understand her methods and the purpose behind these poetic morsels, they will consume you. Stein's spare style inspired a generation of writers, and this is one of her most personal attempts at minimalist writing. It conflates the visual medium of writing with rhythmic and rhyming aural sensations. Give it time. Pick it up. Put it down. Pick it up again. You'll be glad that you did.
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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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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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Format: Paperback
Looking for plot, conflict and character developement? Then move on, this is Gertrude's free-flowing automatic writing.

Ms. Stein is crucial reading to round out one's literary experiance and from that vantage point stars are irrelavant; good, bad or indifferent it is literary history. Did I finish it though? No, I did not.
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