“Objects” from Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein (1914)
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One of Gertrude Stein’s earliest published works, Tender Buttons (1914) is this delightfully perplexing author’s attempt to “create a relationship between the word and the things seen.”
Especially in the first years since its publication, critics have been divided between praising Tender Buttons as a masterwork of of experimental cubist literature, or trashing it as pure nonsense.
Contemporary interpretations tend to find it praiseworthy. Whatever camp you find yourself in, it’s hard to dismiss the fact that this slim volume of prose poetry is entertaining, if more than occasionally head-scratching. You can read two original reviews from the time of its 1914 publication here.
Tender Buttons is divided into more or less equal parts: “Objects,” “Food,” and “Rooms.” Following is the portion “Objects” in its entirety; you can read the rest of the book on Project Gutenberg, as it is in the public domain, but there is such pleasure in reading it as a book in hand rather than on a screen. Tender Buttons is in the public domain.
“Objects” from Tender Buttons
A CARAFE, THAT IS A BLIND GLASS.
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.
Nickel, what is nickel, it is originally rid of a cover.
The change in that is that red weakens an hour. The change has come. There is no search. But there is, there is that hope and that interpretation and sometime, surely any is unwelcome, sometime there is breath and there will be a sinecure and charming very charming is that clean and cleansing. Certainly glittering is handsome and convincing.
There is no gratitude in mercy and in medicine. There can be breakages in Japanese. That is no programme. That is no color chosen. It was chosen yesterday, that showed spitting and perhaps washing and polishing. It certainly showed no obligation and perhaps if borrowing is not natural there is some use in giving.
A SUBSTANCE IN A CUSHION.
The change of color is likely and a difference a very little difference is prepared. Sugar is not a vegetable.
Callous is something that hardening leaves behind what will be soft if there is a genuine interest in there being present as many girls as men. Does this change. It shows that dirt is clean when there is a volume.
A cushion has that cover. Supposing you do not like to change, supposing it is very clean that there is no change in appearance, supposing that there is regularity and a costume is that any the worse than an oyster and an exchange. Come to season that is there any extreme use in feather and cotton. Is there not much more joy in a table and more chairs and very likely roundness and a place to put them.
A circle of fine card board and a chance to see a tassel.
What is the use of a violent kind of delightfulness if there is no pleasure in not getting tired of it. The question does not come before there is a quotation. In any kind of place there is a top to covering and it is a pleasure at any rate there is some venturing in refusing to believe nonsense. It shows what use there is in a whole piece if one uses it and it is extreme and very likely the little things could be dearer but in any case there is a bargain and if there is the best thing to do is to take it away and wear it and then be reckless be reckless and resolved on returning gratitude.
Light blue and the same red with purple makes a change. It shows that there is no mistake. Any pink shows that and very likely it is reasonable. Very likely there should not be a finer fancy present. Some increase means a calamity and this is the best preparation for three and more being together. A little calm is so ordinary and in any case there is sweetness and some of that.
A seal and matches and a swan and ivy and a suit.
A closet, a closet does not connect under the bed. The band if it is white and black, the band has a green string. A sight a whole sight and a little groan grinding makes a trimming such a sweet singing trimming and a red thing not a round thing but a white thing, a red thing and a white thing.
The disgrace is not in carelessness nor even in sewing it comes out out of the way.
What is the sash like. The sash is not like anything mustard it is not like a same thing that has stripes, it is not even more hurt than that, it has a little top.
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Tender Buttons: Objects by Gertrude Stein
presents the first third of the book only, with illustrations by Lisa Congdon
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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. So then the order is that a white way of being round is something suggesting a pin and is it disappointing, it is not, it is so rudimentary to be analysed and see a fine substance strangely, it is so earnest to have a green point not to red but to point again.
A PIECE OF COFFEE.
More of double.
A place in no new table.
A single image is not splendor. Dirty is yellow. A sign of more in not mentioned. A piece of coffee is not a detainer. The resemblance to yellow is dirtier and distincter. The clean mixture is whiter and not coal color, never more coal color than altogether.
The sight of a reason, the same sight slighter, the sight of a simpler negative answer, the same sore sounder, the intention to wishing, the same splendor, the same furniture.
The time to show a message is when too late and later there is no hanging in a blight.
A not torn rose-wood color. If it is not dangerous then a pleasure and more than any other if it is cheap is not cheaper. The amusing side is that the sooner there are no fewer the more certain is the necessity dwindled. Supposing that the case contained rose-wood and a color. Supposing that there was no reason for a distress and more likely for a number, supposing that there was no astonishment, is it not necessary to mingle astonishment.
The settling of stationing cleaning is one way not to shatter scatter and scattering. The one way to use custom is to use soap and silk for cleaning. The one way to see cotton is to have a design concentrating the illusion and the illustration. The perfect way is to accustom the thing to have a lining and the shape of a ribbon and to be solid, quite solid in standing and to use heaviness in morning. It is light enough in that. It has that shape nicely. Very nicely may not be exaggerating. Very strongly may be sincerely fainting. May be strangely flattering. May not be strange in everything. May not be strange to.
DIRT AND NOT COPPER.
Dirt and not copper makes a color darker. It makes the shape so heavy and makes no melody harder.
It makes mercy and relaxation and even a strength to spread a table fuller. There are more places not empty. They see cover.
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Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein (the centennial edition) on Amazon
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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.
A cause and no curve, a cause and loud enough, a cause and extra a loud clash and an extra wagon, a sign of extra, a sac a small sac and an established color and cunning, a slender grey and no ribbon, this means a loss a great loss a restitution.
A METHOD OF A CLOAK.
A single climb to a line, a straight exchange to a cane, a desperate adventure and courage and a clock, all this which is a system, which has feeling, which has resignation and success, all makes an attractive black silver.
A RED STAMP.
If lilies are lily white if they exhaust noise and distance and even dust, if they dusty will dirt a surface that has no extreme grace, if they do this and it is not necessary it is not at all necessary if they do this they need a catalogue.
A large box is handily made of what is necessary to replace any substance. Suppose an example is necessary, the plainer it is made the more reason there is for some outward recognition that there is a result.
A box is made sometimes and them to see to see to it neatly and to have the holes stopped up makes it necessary to use paper.
A custom which is necessary when a box is used and taken is that a large part of the time there are three which have different connections. The one is on the table. The two are on the table. The three are on the table. The one, one is the same length as is shown by the cover being longer. The other is different there is more cover that shows it. The other is different and that makes the corners have the same shade the eight are in singular arrangement to make four necessary.
Lax, to have corners, to be lighter than some weight, to indicate a wedding journey, to last brown and not curious, to be wealthy, cigarettes are established by length and by doubling.
Left open, to be left pounded, to be left closed, to be circulating in summer and winter, and sick color that is grey that is not dusty and red shows, to be sure cigarettes do measure an empty length sooner than a choice in color.
Winged, to be winged means that white is yellow and pieces pieces that are brown are dust color if dust is washed off, then it is choice that is to say it is fitting cigarettes sooner than paper.
An increase why is an increase idle, why is silver cloister, why is the spark brighter, if it is brighter is there any result, hardly more than ever.
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You might also like: 16 Slightly Absurd Quotes by Gertrude Stein
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An occasion for a plate, an occasional resource is in buying and how soon does washing enable a selection of the same thing neater. If the party is small a clever song is in order.
Plates and a dinner set of colored china. Pack together a string and enough with it to protect the centre, cause a considerable haste and gather more as it is cooling, collect more trembling and not any even trembling, cause a whole thing to be a church.
A sad size a size that is not sad is blue as every bit of blue is precocious. A kind of green a game in green and nothing flat nothing quite flat and more round, nothing a particular color strangely, nothing breaking the losing of no little piece.
A splendid address a really splendid address is not shown by giving a flower freely, it is not shown by a mark or by wetting.
Cut cut in white, cut in white so lately. Cut more than any other and show it. Show it in the stem and in starting and in evening coming complication.
A lamp is not the only sign of glass. The lamp and the cake are not the only sign of stone. The lamp and the cake and the cover are not the only necessity altogether.
A plan a hearty plan, a compressed disease and no coffee, not even a card or a change to incline each way, a plan that has that excess and that break is the one that shows filling.
A SELTZER BOTTLE.
Any neglect of many particles to a cracking, any neglect of this makes around it what is lead in color and certainly discolor in silver. The use of this is manifold. Supposing a certain time selected is assured, suppose it is even necessary, suppose no other extract is permitted and no more handling is needed, suppose the rest of the message is mixed with a very long slender needle and even if it could be any black border, supposing all this altogether made a dress and suppose it was actual, suppose the mean way to state it was occasional, if you suppose this in August and even more melodiously, if you suppose this even in the necessary incident of there certainly being no middle in summer and winter, suppose this and an elegant settlement a very elegant settlement is more than of consequence, it is not final and sufficient and substituted. This which was so kindly a present was constant.
A LONG DRESS.
What is the current that makes machinery, that makes it crackle, what is the current that presents a long line and a necessary waist. What is this current.
What is the wind, what is it.
Where is the serene length, it is there and a dark place is not a dark place, only a white and red are black, only a yellow and green are blue, a pink is scarlet, a bow is every color. A line distinguishes it. A line just distinguishes it.
A RED HAT.
A dark grey, a very dark grey, a quite dark grey is monstrous ordinarily, 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.
A BLUE COAT.
A blue coat is guided guided away, guided and guided away, that is the particular color that is used for that length and not any width not even more than a shadow.
If the speed is open, if the color is careless, if the selection of a strong scent is not awkward, if the button holder is held by all the waving color and there is no color, not any color. If there is no dirt in a pin and there can be none scarcely, if there is not then the place is the same as up standing.
This is no dark custom and it even is not acted in any such a way that a restraint is not spread. That is spread, it shuts and it lifts and awkwardly not awkwardly the centre is in standing.
A widow in a wise veil and more garments shows that shadows are even. It addresses no more, it shadows the stage and learning. A regular arrangement, the severest and the most preserved is that which has the arrangement not more than always authorised.
A suitable establishment, well housed, practical, patient and staring, a suitable bedding, very suitable and not more particularly than complaining, anything suitable is so necessary.
A fact is that when the direction is just like that, no more, longer, sudden and at the same time not any sofa, the main action is that without a blaming there is no custody.
Practice measurement, practice the sign that means that really means a necessary betrayal, in showing that there is wearing.
Hope, what is a spectacle, a spectacle is the resemblance between the circular side place and nothing else, nothing else.
To choose it is ended, it is actual and more than that it has it certainly has the same treat, and a seat all that is practiced and more easily much more easily ordinarily.
Pick a barn, a whole barn, and bend more slender accents than have ever been necessary, shine in the darkness necessarily. Actually not aching, actually not aching, a stubborn bloom is so artificial and even more than that, it is a spectacle, it is a binding accident, it is animosity and accentuation.
If the chance to dirty diminishing is necessary, if it is why is there no complexion, why is there no rubbing, why is there no special protection.
A FRIGHTFUL RELEASE.
A bag which was left and not only taken but turned away was not found. The place was shown to be very like the last time. A piece was not exchanged, not a bit of it, a piece was left over. The rest was mismanaged.
A purse was not green, it was not straw color, it was hardly seen and it had a use a long use and the chain, the chain was never missing, it was not misplaced, it showed that it was open, that is all that it showed.
A MOUNTED UMBRELLA.
What was the use of not leaving it there where it would hang what was the use if there was no chance of ever seeing it come there and show that it was handsome and right in the way it showed it. The lesson is to learn that it does show it, that it shows it and that nothing, that there is nothing, that there is no more to do about it and just so much more is there plenty of reason for making an exchange.
Enough cloth is plenty and more, more is almost enough for that and besides if there is no more spreading is there plenty of room for it. Any occasion shows the best way.
An elegant use of foliage and grace and a little piece of white cloth and oil.
Wondering so winningly in several kinds of oceans is the reason that makes red so regular and enthusiastic. The reason that there is more snips are the same shining very colored rid of no round color.
A NEW CUP AND SAUCER.
Enthusiastically hurting a clouded yellow bud and saucer, enthusiastically so is the bite in the ribbon.
Within, within the cut and slender joint alone, with sudden equals and no more than three, two in the centre make two one side.
If the elbow is long and it is filled so then the best example is all together.
The kind of show is made by squeezing.
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Gertrude Stein Quotes to Perplex and Delight
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A color in shaving, a saloon is well placed in the centre of an alley.
A blind agitation is manly and uttermost.
No cup is broken in more places and mended, that is to say a plate is broken and mending does do that it shows that culture is Japanese. It shows the whole element of angels and orders. It does more to choosing and it does more to that ministering counting. It does, it does change in more water.
Supposing a single piece is a hair supposing more of them are orderly, does that show that strength, does that show that joint, does that show that balloon famously. Does it.
A courteous occasion makes a paper show no such occasion and this makes readiness and eyesight and likeness and a stool.
The meaning of this is entirely and best to say the mark, best to say it best to show sudden places, best to make bitter, best to make the length tall and nothing broader, anything between the half.
Water astonishing and difficult altogether makes a meadow and a stroke.
A season in yellow sold extra strings makes lying places.
The sudden spoon is the same in no size. The sudden spoon is the wound in the decision.
Coloring high means that the strange reason is in front not more in front behind. Not more in front in peace of the dot.
A light white, a disgrace, an ink spot, a rosy charm.
A star glide, a single frantic sullenness, a single financial grass greediness.
Object that is in wood. Hold the pine, hold the dark, hold in the rush, make the bottom.
A piece of crystal. A change, in a change that is remarkable there is no reason to say that there was a time.
A woolen object gilded. A country climb is the best disgrace, a couple of practices any of them in order is so left.
A TIME TO EAT.
A pleasant simple habitual and tyrannical and authorised and educated and resumed and articulate separation. This is not tardy.
A LITTLE BIT OF A TUMBLER.
A shining indication of yellow consists in there having been more of the same color than could have been expected when all four were bought. This was the hope which made the six and seven have no use for any more places and this necessarily spread into nothing. Spread into nothing.
What was the use of a whole time to send and not send if there was to be the kind of thing that made that come in. A letter was nicely sent.
A winning of all the blessings, a sample not a sample because there is no worry.
A cool red rose and a pink cut pink, a collapse and a sold hole, a little less hot.
In between a place and candy is a narrow foot-path that shows more mounting than anything, so much really that a calling meaning a bolster measured a whole thing with that. A virgin a whole virgin is judged made and so between curves and outlines and real seasons and more out glasses and a perfectly unprecedented arrangement between old ladies and mild colds there is no satin wood shining.
Colored hats are necessary to show that curls are worn by an addition of blank spaces, this makes the difference between single lines and broad stomachs, the least thing is lightening, the least thing means a little flower and a big delay a big delay that makes more nurses than little women really little women. So clean is a light that nearly all of it shows pearls and little ways. A large hat is tall and me and all custard whole.
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.
A brown which is not liquid not more so is relaxed and yet there is a change, a news is pressing.
A LITTLE CALLED PAULINE.
A little called anything shows shudders.
Come and say what prints all day. A whole few watermelon. There is no pope.
No cut in pennies and little dressing and choose wide soles and little spats really little spices.
A little lace makes boils. This is not true.
Gracious of gracious and a stamp a blue green white bow a blue green lean, lean on the top.
If it is absurd then it is leadish and nearly set in where there is a tight head.
A peaceful life to arise her, noon and moon and moon. A letter a cold sleeve a blanket a shaving house and nearly the best and regular window.
Nearer in fairy sea, nearer and farther, show white has lime in sight, show a stitch of ten. Count, count more so that thicker and thicker is leaning.
I hope she has her cow. Bidding a wedding, widening received treading, little leading mention nothing.
Cough out cough out in the leather and really feather it is not for.
Please could, please could, jam it not plus more sit in when.
Elephant beaten with candy and little pops and chews all bolts and reckless reckless rats, this is this.
A table means does it not my dear it means a whole steadiness. Is it likely that a change.
A table means more than a glass even a looking glass is tall. A table means necessary places and a revision a revision of a little thing it means it does mean that there has been a stand, a stand where it did shake.
To be a wall with a damper a stream of pounding way and nearly enough choice makes a steady midnight. It is pus.
A shallow hole rose on red, a shallow hole in and in this makes ale less. It shows shine.
A little monkey goes like a donkey that means to say that means to say that more sighs last goes. Leave with it. A little monkey goes like a donkey.
A WHITE HUNTER.
A white hunter is nearly crazy.
In the middle of a tiny spot and nearly bare there is a nice thing to say that wrist is leading. Wrist is leading.
SUPPOSE AN EYES.
Suppose it is within a gate which open is open at the hour of closing summer that is to say it is so.
All the seats are needing blackening. A white dress is in sign. A soldier a real soldier has a worn lace a worn lace of different sizes that is to say if he can read, if he can read he is a size to show shutting up twenty-four.
Go red go red, laugh white.
Suppose a collapse in rubbed purr, in rubbed purr get.
Little sales ladies little sales ladies little saddles of mutton.
Little sales of leather and such beautiful beautiful, beautiful beautiful.
A shawl is a hat and hurt and a red balloon and an under coat and a sizer a sizer of talks.
A shawl is a wedding, a piece of wax a little build. A shawl.
Pick a ticket, pick it in strange steps and with hollows. There is hollow hollow belt, a belt is a shawl.
A plate that has a little bobble, all of them, any so.
Please a round it is ticket.
It was a mistake to state that a laugh and a lip and a laid climb and a depot and a cultivator and little choosing is a point it.
Book was there, it was there. Book was there. Stop it, stop it, it was a cleaner, a wet cleaner and it was not where it was wet, it was not high, it was directly placed back, not back again, back it was returned, it was needless, it put a bank, a bank when, a bank care.
Suppose a man a realistic expression of resolute reliability suggests pleasing itself white all white and no head does that mean soap. It does not so. It means kind wavers and little chance to beside beside rest. A plain.
Suppose ear rings, that is one way to breed, breed that. Oh chance to say, oh nice old pole. Next best and nearest a pillar. Chest not valuable, be papered.
Cover up cover up the two with a little piece of string and hope rose and green, green.
Please a plate, put a match to the seam and really then really then, really then it is a remark that joins many many lead games. It is a sister and sister and a flower and a flower and a dog and a colored sky a sky colored grey and nearly that nearly that let.
PEELED PENCIL, CHOKE.
Rub her coke.
IT WAS BLACK, BLACK TOOK.
Black ink best wheel bale brown.
Excellent not a hull house, not a pea soup, no bill no care, no precise no past pearl pearl goat.
THIS IS THE DRESS, AIDER.
Aider, why aider why whow, whow stop touch, aider whow, aider stop the muncher, muncher munchers.
A jack in kill her, a jack in, makes a meadowed king, makes a to let.
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More about Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein
- The Making of Tender Buttons
- Reader discussion on Goodreads
- Tender Buttons in the New Yorker (1934)
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