Lover of the Fancy

Early C20th American culture and dissent

Tender Buttons: The Corrected Centennial Edition
Gertrude Stein

£7.99

Tender Buttons is a 1914 book by American writer Gertrude Stein consisting of three sections titled “Objects”, “Food”, and “Rooms”. While the short book consists of multiple poems covering the everyday mundane, Stein’s experimental use of language renders the poems unorthodox and their subjects unfamiliar.

Stein began composition of the book in 1912 with multiple short prose poems in an effort to “create a word relationship between the word and the things seen” using a “realist” perspective. She then published it in three sections as her second book in 1914.

With an afterword by Juliana Spahr.

Paperback, 134pp
City Lights Books, 2014 (1914)
ISBN 9780872866355

Biography

GERTRUDE STEIN (1874-1946) was an American novelist and poet. Born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, Stein was raised in an upper-middle-class Jewish family alongside four siblings. After a brief move to Vienna and Paris, the Steins settled in Oakland, California in 1878, where Stein would spend her formative years. In 1892, following the loss of her mother and father, Stein moved with her sister to live with family in Baltimore, where she was exposed to salon culture. From 1893 to 1897 she attended Radcliffe College, studying psychology under William James. Conducting experiments on the phenomenon of normal motor automatism, Stein produced early examples of steam of consciousness or automatic writing, a hallmark of the Modernist style later practiced by Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and William Faulkner. In 1897, she enrolled at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine on the recommendation of James, but ultimately left before completing her degree. She moved to Paris with her brother Leo, an artist, in 1903. In the French capital, the Steins gained a reputation as art collectors, purchasing works by Picasso, Matisse, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Renoir. At 27 rue de Fleurus, Stein hosted an influential salon for such artists and intellectuals as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and F Scott Fitzgerald, who recognized her as a leading Modernist and central figure of the so-called Lost Generation. Her influential works include Three Lives (1909), Tender Buttons (1912), and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933), all of which exemplify her control over vastly different styles of poetry and prose. Capable of producing experimental, hermetic works that draw attention to the constructed nature of language, Stein also excelled with straightforward narratives, essays, and biographical descriptions. From 1907 until her death, Stein and her life partner Alice B. Toklas gained a reputation as leaders in the international avant-garde, and remain essential to our understanding of the development of twentieth century art and culture.