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Tender Buttons

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  3,216 ratings  ·  189 reviews
Tender Buttons is the best known of Gertrude Stein's "hermetic" works. It is a small book separated into three sections - Food, Objects and Rooms each containing prose under subtitles. (Kellner, 1988, p. 61-62). Its publication in 1914 caused a great dispute between Mabel Dodge Luhan and Gertrude, because Mabel had been working to have it published by another publisher. (M ...more
Paperback, 80 pages
Published July 10th 1997 by Dover Publications (first published 1914)
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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldA Moveable Feast by Ernest HemingwayThe Sun Also Rises by Ernest HemingwayA Farewell to Arms by Ernest HemingwayParis France by Gertrude Stein
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Hope in gates, hope in spoons, hope in doors, hope in tables, no hope in daintiness and determination. Hope in dates.

Okay, besides the semaphored helplessness of a giant ‘WTF’, what would be the correct response to these lines, and to Tender Buttons as a whole? Don’t look at me. I have no idea what any of this means, or whether it means anything at all. Maybe this prose poem is just a gourmet word salad, maybe it’s just a series of non-sequiturs to which I’ve foolishly assented. I don’t know. I

A kind in glass and a cousin, a spectacle and nothing strange a single hurt color and an arrangement in a system to pointing. All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. The difference is spreading."


Gertrude Stein was once quoted as saying that Ernest Hemingway was "all bullfights and bullshit."

That may be true, but you, madam, are just bullshit. At least Hemingway threw some bullfighting in every now and then.

Read for: Modern Poetry
Some call it nonsense, but if you derive pleasure from reading these vignettes, you can't understand how someone else doesn't.

Here's how I see it: When we were learning our language, we learned how to link the word with the object the word represents. Gertrude Stein seeks to dismantle this link and consequently abstract our common understanding of language. While we learned to easily state, "this equals that," we should not simply place an equal sign between the descriptive word and the actual o
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Gertrude Stein drops acid and describes items from domestic life using language generally reserved for Georgia O'Keefe paintings. I frequently found myself getting impatient with it in that itchy skin sort of way where I just wanted it to be over, while at other times it felt like I was having a lovely swim in a sea of Stein's sensory perceptions. In short, I'm ambivalent. Here and there, it seemed to border on saying that heterosexual intercourse is sterile and/or inherently violent (without ou ...more
"Experimental" but also funny and sexy. Its like pages covered in little droplets of word rain.
This is kind of the literary equivalent of the guy who takes a shit and gets it put into a museum as sculpture, sneezes onto a canvass, etc. I can see the argument that it's "profound" in its implied questioning of "what really is art" but is there a future in it? Does anybody enjoy it?

Well, judging from the reviews, some people do. I don't, but usually when I don't like something I at least have a clue as to why other people do. With Stein, I mean, it's nonsense, not the Lewis Carroll kind, but
tender: one who tends or waits upon
one who attends or has charge of
a ship or boat used to attend to a larger ship or boat in various capacities
an act of tendering
an offer of money in exchange for goods or services
an offer of anything for acceptance
an offer made in writing by one party to another to execute an order for the supply or purchase of goods or for the execution of work
currency prescribed by law
literal and physical senses
soft or delicate in texture
of the ground, soft with moisture, rott
Jun 27, 2007 Paolo rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone.
Shelves: poetry
My copy of this book is permanently tucked into my messenger bag. I carry it everywhere I travel--in the city, outside of the country--and is one of those rare books that actually inspires me to write each time I open to any one of its pages. I love this most tender of buttons, in spite of the occasional racist phrase inside it. "Act as if there is no use in a centre"? Gertrude Stein 4-ever.
Sexy. But just read this for fun. This is a book that literature classes can't deal with--and will make literature classes something you can't deal with.
Gertrude Stein lived with Picasso's representational art hanging all around her in her Paris parlor; TENDER BUTTONS is representational language in rhythmic form between the folds of a book. A fifty-two page rendering of familiar things represented in unfamiliar associations, the text is divided into three sections: Objects, Food, and Rooms. Sub-texts are Red Stamp, Box, and Plate.

Using many language devices such as repetition, alliteration, and rhythm, Ms. Stein liberates language from punctuat
Stein continues her experiments with a "continuous present" in this classic work written in 1912, emphasizing sounds, rhythms, and repetitions over and against "sense." To live in this state is "to begin again and again," to "use everything." She sums it up best: "The teasing is tender and trying and thoughtful."
Recommended by Jack,
Count No Count
If I find myself long on sleep and short on hallucinations I open this little paperback and wait for the words to start pushing crazy around in my brain. Once thoroughly confused, I close the book, satisfied.
Adrian Astur Alvarez
Well this isn't for everyone but like some of the others here on Goodreads I have an unjustifiable love for Tender Buttons. Is it just a small selection of modernist gibberish? Maybe. Is there a great key that can be used to unlock significant meaning from Stein's famous tome of word salad? Maybe not. I don't really know. Keeping in mind her project (to paint with language like an artist... just the words, not the grammar... sort of) gives one at least some way to talk about the unusual poems he ...more
Daniel Lomax
"It was a garden and belows belows straight. It was a pea, a pea pour it in its not a succession, not it a simple, not it a so election, election with."

Gertrude Stein's aim in writing Tender Buttons was, in some sense, to reinvent the English language, and the foreword explains that "the reader is forced to question the meanings of words, to become reacquainted with a language that Stein thought had become dulled by long use". In this sense her project is the literary counterpart of Stravinsky's
Mostly a collection of self-pleasuring on the topic of difference for its own sake. Some ear there for sound and concept, but mostly ringing as an overbearing attempt to be new. Stein's hatred of punctuation strikes one as an affectation, but then so do most of her opinions or ideas. I suppose Hemingway's sense that she was 'always right' stemmed from the lacking of his imagination (beyond that which bolstered his sense of self, and perhaps in that their true connection). Stein's importance to l ...more
Tyler Jones
There is a question. There is a response.

The tone is authoritative, however there is no discernible meaning.

The lack of meaning is obviously intentional.

Does it work? Yes, it mostly does.

Perhaps there is a bit too much repetition of certain sentence structures for my taste;

take a thing, any thing. the thing is questioned. the thing is stated.

I'm not sure that the effect could not have been heightened with less of that.


This is a lesson in how authority is conferred by tone, not by logic
Staci Miller
Lovely. Just lovely. The poems are a joy to read and Congdon's illustrations are gorgeous. Congdon's Esty shop is closed at the moment but when it reopens I hope to purchase a print from the book to hang in my guest room. This book would make an excellent gift for poetry lovers.

A charm a single charm is doubtful. If the red is rose and there is a gate surrounding it, if inside is let in and there places change then certainly something is upright. It is earnest.
Natasha Whyte
"Tender Buttons" is one of those poetry compilations that not only improves every time you read it, it becomes a new book. While I may have given this book a rating based on my own tastes, the truth of the matter is that "Tender Buttons" stands above any arbitrary system of judgment I or any other can invent. Gertrude Stein's trailblazing work of poetry facilitated the development of an entire sub-genre of the Modernism movement of the early twentieth century. The first work of literary Cubism, ...more
I tentatively will say I liked this book...but appreciating it does not mean understanding it.

It feels like poetry but looks like a novel. It reminds you literature but has sharp edges like a cubist painting. It's experimental. Here's what wikipedia says about it:

"Tender Buttons: objects, food, rooms is the title of a 1914 book by Gertrude Stein consisting of word clusters chosen for their prosody, juxtaposed for the purpose of subverting commonplace dictionary meanings which Stein believed had
Jan 02, 2011 Joe rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry

Why did it take me so long to read this? Dumb dumb dumb. It seems impossible to think about latest manifestations of insistence on new kinds of sentences, genrelessness, etc without starting with Stein as the modernist G-mother.

Wondering about the use of "is," assertion of total exchangeability of objects and sensation in the heart of the Western domestic space. Invites one to see every object as a commodity in an economy of universal exchange? And/or every word as changeable in an economy of E
Too much context about how difficult and frustrating it is to read Gertrude Stein led me to hold her off for too long until a couple days ago when I decided to approach the books I thought were "unfriendly" in order to get an idea of how I, too, can be "unfriendly" and it turns out that Tender Buttons is not that "unfriendly" at all. I really like it. Very quick read. Very song-like. Very much what sentences sound like once I note down my thoughts, which come with little punctuation, preferably. ...more
Jul 10, 2011 Andrew added it
Shelves: poetry
I read Three Lives ages ago and found it to be modernism at its most sweethearted. This is modernism at its coldest.

Sometimes Stein's peculiar linguistic juxtapositions serve her cause, but other times, it feels without purpose. At the height of the cubist era, after 150 years of miserable sentimental novels, this was probably a total breath of fresh air.

I was really into Dada when I was a sniveling little punk-rock youth. I would have liked it more then. Now so many of these haute-moderne langu
so I'd give this book about a 2 1/2. It was good but nothing amazing. There were certain lines, and words, and paragraphs and stanzas and poems that I did like very much. But it wasn't anything that was life altering. I think that if I read Gertrude Stein a bit more perhaps I'd like her poetry a bit more, but it doesn't really matter. I can however now say that I've read Gertrude Stein, I also can however say that it wouldn't have made a difference if I've never read Gertrude Stein.

But if you (
"To bury a slender chicken, to raise an old feather, to surround a garland and to bake a pole splinter, to suggest a repose and to settle simply, to surrender one another, to succeed saving simpler, to satisfy a singularity and not to be blinder, to sugar nothing darker and to read redder, to have the color better, to sort out dinner, to remain together, to surprise no sinner, to curve nothing sweeter, to continue thinner, to increase in resting recreation to design string not dimmer."

Can someon
I'm sure there is theory and experimentation behind this work. I'm just too busy to try to figure it out... kinda like Finnegans Wake. Life is too short. I appreciate Stein and I appreciate Joyce....just not to the point of spending a lot of time on this. Interesting words juxatapositioned together. May use a line to inspire a poetry writing prompt but that is about it.
Finished this one just to mark it as finished.
Favorite tidbits:

Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle.

The time when there is not a question is only seen when there is a shower. Any little thing is water.

Sugar any sugar, anger every anger, lover sermon lover, center no distractor, all order is in measure.
Gabriel Oak
I could easily see moving this up to 5 stars after another reading or three. Stein's prose poems are "portraits" of everyday objects, but she uses language in such a way as to break down meaning, rather than communicate it. The trick here is that the syntax is actually quite simple, but sentences contradict one another or violate our sense of what is relevant to the description or even possible.

I especially love the passage midway through "Rooms," a long paragraph that begins with several statem
I guess I read this book, because I remember quoting it in a paper on Gertrude Stein for "Art and Literature of the Lost Generation." That was in 2002.

We ran out of time to read this and jumped to Hemingway instead. A lot of students were relieved, I think.
Re-read it yesterday. On a second look, a few thoughts on the subject.
I took my time this time, and I enjoyed being continually unsettled.
I wish I could manage the same attitude toward life.
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Gertrude Stein was an American writer who spent most of her life in France, and who became a catalyst in the development of modern art and literature. Her life was marked by two primary relationships, the first with her brother Leo Stein, from 1874-1914, and the second with Alice B. Toklas, from 1907 until Stein's death in 1946. Stein shared her salon at 27 rue de Fleurus, Paris, first with Leo an ...more
More about Gertrude Stein...
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas Three Lives Picasso Selected Writings Paris France

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“In the morning there is meaning, in the evening there is feeling.” 34 likes

A feather is trimmed, it is trimmed by the light and the bug and the post, it is trimmed by little leaning and by all sorts of mounted reserves and loud volumes. It is surely cohesive.”
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