Tender Buttons – The Book

Tender Buttons, the basis for our show, 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.

Tender Buttons is renowned for its Modernist approach to portraying the everyday object and is lauded as a “masterpiece of verbal Cubism”. Its first poem, “A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass”, is arguable its most famous and is usually cited as one of the quintessential pieces of Cubist literature. While it has been praised for its avant-garde approach at portraying the mundane, it has also been criticized as “a modernist triumph, a spectacular failure, a collection of confusing gibberish, and an intentional hoax”.

Tender Buttons can be downloaded at Gutenberg

In 2014, City Lights published an excellent Centennial Edition