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Three Lives and Tender Buttons Paperback – March 29, 2012
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About the Author
Gertrude Stein, as a college student at Radcliffe and a medical student at Johns Hopkins Medical School, was a privileged woman, but she was surrounded by women who were trapped by poverty, class, and race into lives that offered little choice. Her portraits of Anna and Lena are examples of realistic depictions of immigrant women who had no occupational choice but to become domestic workers. This collection of documents from the history of women's suffrage, medical history, modernist art, and literature enables readers to see how radical Stein's subject was. Three Lives consists of three character studies of women; "The Good Anna"--a kind but domineering German servingwoman; "Melanctha"--an uneducated but sensitive black girl; "The Gentle Lena"--a pathetically feebleminded young German maid. Stein published 26 books starting with this collection of three stories in 1909. This is her first book and she self published only 500 hard copies. She had to fight with the publisher to get it published her way. He wanted to make it more conventional. It was not written as a novel aimed at wide popular sales. She was seeking a smaller and a more critical audience. When it was written, she had left Baltimore and was living in Paris on money inherited from her father. She had the luxury of being able to do whatever she wanted. As a result, she bought paintings and wrote experimental fiction.
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Then, if you must, listen to this Flo Gibson set. Possibly you won't listen to much of it. I disliked it intensely. The reader appears neither to understand nor to like the material and reads with unremitting dullness of diction and unrelentingly pedestrian rhythm. In an apparent attempt to give some workaday meaning to Stein's rippling, dancing phrases, many words are heavily overemphasized, like an extremely bad and condescending reading of a children's book. But do remember --you may not react as I did.
The reading is not helped by pops and hissings, especially noticeable and intrusive on the beginning consonants of most syllables.