Tender Buttons hc Hardcover – 1 Apr 2013
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"It is hard to imagine ever growing tired of this book. The more time you spend with both Stein's text and Congdon's illustrations the deeper you want to dig." - Imprint
"An absolute joy from cover to cover." - Brain Pickings
"I was instantly enamored with Tender Buttons: Objects-Stein's 1914 collection of avant-garde verses celebrating everyday objects in her signature style of semantic somersaults, brought to fresh life with Lisa Congdon's vibrant illustrations of birds, boxes, cups, clocks, umbrellas, and other ordinary objects made extraordinary." -Brain Pickings
About the Author
Gertrude Stein was a cultural powerhouse of the Modernist movement in Paris in the early 20th century. Her avant-garde writing style has never been approached for sheer audacity and her book The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas remains a perennial seller to this day. She is also known for her extensive art collection and for fostering the talents of Picasso, Matisse, Hemingway and Joyce. San Francisco artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon works in several mediums, including paper collage, screen-printing, ink, textiles, and paint. She has been featured in Bitch, Adorn, Country Living and ReadyMade Magazines and on numerous art, design and culture blogs. She is the author of the Birch Forest flexi journal and several other Chronicle stationery titles.
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When reading Gertrude Stein one can't expect sentences to read with the usual logic or syntax. Each word becomes an object as it's celebrated for sound and rhythm. Opinions of the book through the years have included "a collection of confusing gibberish, and an intentional hoax." It's also been referred to as "a masterpiece of verbal Cubism."
The image on the front cover, a chair, accompanies Stein's "A Chair." Don't expect any chairs in her prose poem, though. Instead you'll find: "a widow in a wise veil," "suitable bedding," "not any sofa," and "a whole barn." If we freed our minds, and relaxed a little, perhaps we too would let "a chair" offer such flights of fancy.
"A Substance in a Cushion" is illustrated by a colorful sash looping into circles which is precisely what the poems do—"linguistic circles" as the back cover states. And there's the chair: "Is there not much more joy in a table and more chairs and very likely roundness and a place to put them."
I found it a delight to see Condon's interpretations or rather, reactions, in her playful illustrations. "A Petticoat" for instance, shows the white, the ink spot, the "rose charm." The young woman has painted toe nails, Congdon's playful addition. "A Box," "Mildred's Umbrella," "A Plate," "A Red Hat," and "A New Cup and Saucer" will have you appreciating the objects around you while seeing them in a new and unconventional light.
Congdon throws in her own surprises with a deer head covered in red flowers for "Red Roses." For "A Shawl," Congdon has drawn tickets (referred to in the prose poem), with words and numbers in various colors that look well worn. I can imagine choosing such tickets and writing my own version of "a plate that has a little bobble."
The book has inspired generations of experimental poetry and with this new release will, no doubt, invoke more exploration of words and objects. Although Tender Buttons was published in 1914, it now has a refreshing new twist that will help it find a whole new appreciative audience.
by Mary Ann Moore
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
Great addition to my collection of Gertrude Stein's writings.
Wish this artist would consider illustrating the remaining sections of "Tender Buttons".