Stein was an American writer and
art collector, who spent most of her life living in Paris.
There is much to say about Gertrude Stein, whose
most well-known works were perhaps the very accessible Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
and the epic Making of Americans
(revered but so long most will admit to not having gotten through the
whole of it). She was also famous for her salons, held at her
home at 27, Rue de Fleurus -- where the cultural shapers of the world
gathered...from Hemingway to Picasso.
Before writing Tender Buttons,
Stein was doing a lot of portraits. They were, of course,
portraits painted with words. Here's a clip of Stein reading "If
I Told Him - A Completed Portrait of Picasso."
Publisher Donald Evans asked Gertrude Stein for a
play to publish. Instead of sending him a play, she sent him
Tender Buttons, a curious work of indescribable genre, consisting of
three sections: Objects, Food and Rooms.
When it first came out, the response was...deafening silence. No
one knew quite what to make of it. It was unlike anything anyone
had ever read before.
Over the next century, Tender Buttons would grow to have a massive
influence on our cultural, our literature, even -- we would argue --
our song lyrics.