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Tender Buttons [Paperback]

Gertrude Stein
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Mar 2003
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 details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications Inc.; New edition edition (28 Mar 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486298973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486298979
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.8 x 0.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 212,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

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.

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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Give it time 28 Jun 1999
By A Customer
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tender Button, 100 years on... 24 Oct 2012
Format:Paperback
A century after Gertrude Stein wrote Tender Buttons the text has been newly formatted, with a view to it being more sympathetically read as prose-poetry, in contrast to the original setting of the 1914 edition and the various subsequent editions.

Tender Buttons, published in 1914, is a key document of certain experimental writing of its time. This abandons some of the orthodoxy of syntax in favour of a loose, intuitive structure of poetic associations of meaning and sound. Multiple viewpoints of each single subject--collected here in three sections, Objects, Food and Rooms--build an impression that we are being shown the whole, rather than the selected or preferred, in a conscious parallel of what Gertrude Stein's cubist affiliates were attempting on canvas. The result is regarded by some critics as hermetic, difficult, even meaningless, an attitude promoted, paradoxically, by the workaday look of the original, whose rigid headings and justified paragraphs intimated a prose of rational sequence and the linear advancement of meaning.

In this edition, for the first time, design and layout respond to a plain reading of the content. Here it becomes evident that in her plastic, collagist use of language Stein was arguing for a purist shaking off of redundant associations and judgements into a thing free of cliché or manipulation. Funny, poetic and multifaceted, this is a text to read in and around, the sense arriving on a wave of rhythm, sound, and harmony.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A bit like viewing a Picasso for the first time. 29 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I’m new to Gertrude Stein’s work and didn’t really know what to expect from the mixed reviews and accounts of others. At first the unusual arrangement of words, apparently lacking conventional syntax, feel incongruous but then seemed to reveal something unique about their subjects. I recommend tender Buttons to anyone seeking a unique experience in reading. Mesmerising and unique; at least for me that is.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I recommand this book 3 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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".
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modernist Classic That's Fun to Read 9 Oct 2002
By michael helsem - Published on Amazon.com
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.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Endlessly rereadable; the best prose poem of all time 22 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Give it time 28 Jun 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stein's dance of words 3 Jun 2002
By Michael J. Mazza - Published on Amazon.com
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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