Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Stein and Knitting and Time: An Almanac of Probable Subjects (with Notes)

This post is a reflective response to a recent podcast, Talking Tender Buttons, featuring a panel/response group moderated by Al Filreis, and including Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Bob Perelman, Julia Bloch and (by remote connection) Ron Silliman. The link to the podcast is via Silliman's Blog, here: http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com/2013/10/blog-post_9090.html 

Back in the mid-1970's, after I had dropped out of graduate school, and was rather at loose ends, I contemplated returning to Berkeley to pursue a thesis on the writings of Gertrude Stein. There was at that time a department full professor named Richard Bridgman, who had published a book, Gertrude Stein in Pieces [1970], and I met him in his Wheeler Hall office, probably in 1973, to explain my interest in Stein, and inquire of him whether he thought such a thesis might be welcome in the department. He responded negatively, to my surprise, saying that as a result of his thorough-going study into her work, he felt serious literary attention devoted to her writings would not be a worthy pursuit. As a result of that meeting, I decided to put off returning to grad school, and ended up starting work for the government about a year later. It was a turning-point for me, not just in my work-life, but in my attitude towards Modernist literature. I had been reading Stein's work for several years, and it seemed to me that there was fertile ground for study and appreciation, ground which had not even been acknowledged, much less developed in the academy. The English Department at Berkeley was on the threshold of a convulsive period of change, a change which would turn much of the official critical and appraisal values of art and literature in the preceding half century on their head. I'm not sure I understood that at the time, but I did have an inkling that the recognition of Stein's contribution to the history of experimental writing, and of the understanding of experimental processes in art, was in its infancy. Whether or not the revelation of that possibility would ever be acknowledged officially was another question.

While still an undergraduate at Berkeley, Robert Grenier, my poet-teacher during my junior and senior years there, had introduced me to selections from Tender Buttons [1914]. How such obviously obscure and odd and fascinating work could have been written three quarters of a century before, by a woman living in Paris, was a mystery beyond my comprehensions then. But its liberating qualities remained a touchstone for me in the succeeding years, and when I left graduate school in 1972, I continued to delve into her other writings, and found that TB was but a small morsel in a great banquet of delights and mysteries. The more of her work and lectures I read, the more I realized how original her position had been with respect to other Modernists, and what a revelation her insights and accomplishments were, not only in light of her own work, but to other writers and painters as well. She had much to teach me. That she might be ignored, or dismissed, or even condemned by the regnant centers of artistic or academic power, couldn't have mattered to me, since I had no conflicting commitments in my life, having abandoned professional writing and teaching for the "secular" workplace.  

Listening to the Tender Buttons podcast yesterday, brought all of my accumulated thoughts and concerns of the past 40 years or so back to attention, and I thought this might be the opportunity to enumerate some of the ideas I've had about her work over time. A list like this is by no means exhaustive. The proof of the value of Stein's work is in the wide variety of applications which may be brought to bear on her work and life--applications, in many cases, which she actively anticipated and even considered. Indeed, one of the aspects of her personality was her keen awareness and sensitivity to the social milieus and contexts not just of her work, but of her presence in the world--its reception and the meaning and importance of that reception. She understood, I feel, that her writing had a palpable future, a measure of appreciation that she would certainly not live to see; and in addition, she understood (and was not above manipulating) the public media world against which her experimental investigations (and rather exclusive "life-style") were shown in ironic relief. Her identity as a Jewish intellectual, and an openly co-habiting Lesbian, required that she adopt stances--by turns supremely confident, at others indulging comic self-caricature.

So here is a kind of almanac of probable areas of study or inquiry, which have occurred to me over the years, as a result of my reading of her work, and reading and thinking about her life.        

Stein and time.  No time.

There is no question that one of the primary departures that Stein undertook, after publishing Three Lives in 1909, was to abandon narrative. Narrative--by the time of late Henry James [The Golden Bowl (1904), The Ivory Tower (1917)], and early James Joyce [Ulysses was composed beginning in 1914]--had become, in a creative sense, exhausted. In the work of both late James, the Joyce of Ulysses, as well as the somewhat later efforts of Virginia Woolf, we can see a frustration both with the temporality of sequence, and with the limits of the sentence and the paragraph to adequately portray the complexities of thought and feeling. Stein's solution to this problem, which she had addressed head-on in The Making of Americans [written 1906-08, but not published until 1925], had led her to perceive that the landscape of contemporary narrative prose was either exhausted (and probably beyond her specific aptitude or interest); or she saw other possibilities, largely in the new early Modernist painters (Picasso, Matisse, Gris, etc.), which suggested objectifications of representation that she could make more out of than just telling "stories". Besides, she was no longer interested in interpreting the course of American life (i.e., of Sinclair Lewis or John Dos Passos), as she had chosen to live permanently in France in a kind of determined state of quixotic exile. The "continuous present" one experiences in Stein's experimental writing is a consequence of her rejecting all temporal development, in favor of focusing on the progress of her mind through language. This rejection of past and future, or an unfolding of event, constitutes a repudiation of mimesis. Her work exists in a nominative flatland of named things and relationships, infinite in its enumerations. Nothing is quite "real" except the verbal qualities which suggest interactions and stitches in the duration of consciousness. Once you get over this hurdle in her work, it all makes sense.          

Stein and knitting.

I used to wonder what it was about Stein's work that made it "feminine". As a self-confident Lesbian, she possessed a forthrightness and a certainty about her place and function in the world, which was supported by her financial security. Her confidence in her own work was of the kind that takes as perfectly natural a sense of its own necessity and value. One of the qualities of Stein's experimental work is her use of the woven variation. For those familiar with her work, there is repetition, nesting, steady augmentation, and an overall design of color and contrasting elements which evolve out of the process of the order of her words and phrases.

Knitting is a complex art, and one whose particularities and variations aren't a metaphor for Stein's work on any scientific level. But there is an imaginative process which is similar in its methodology in experimental writing like Stein's, in which the accrual of apparently simple, though subtly continuous altering, functions is allowed to develop into larger structures which carry the valence or bias of those functions. Threads of meaning interlock and reappear, but do not build into complete pictures or related sequences of event. There is something comforting about her work, a comfort which is akin to the settled devotion to a task, rather than the working out of problems which constitute the usual business of fictional or non-fictional prose. Stein's work exists only in the time of its reading, not as reference to another spectrum of event. Its ostensible "subject" addresses only the play of its immediate, undulating surface. It is not "about" in the sense of being an account of another thing; without its own self-referentiality, it quietly dissolves into nonsense. It can be replayed, but not re-told. In that sense, it has the quality of pure music.      

Stein and narration

Stein was perfectly capable of making adamant sense, and this was something she did over and over again in her letters, and in her conversation and lectures--as well as in her "straight" prose accounts, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas [1933], Lectures in America [1935], Picasso [1938], Paris France [1940], Wars I Have Seen [1945], and so on. She may be the first important author who acknowledged the demarcation between popular and academic audiences, addressing each discretely, playing to each one with an amused irony of their difference and contradictory natures. She understood how providing each with a coherent "story" could satisfy their respective curiosity and hunger for digestible meaning(s). Her academic audiences wanted architecture and tropes; he popular audiences wanted fun and bite-sized treats. She provided both.     

Stein and Childhood - In the Round

From her earliest works, Stein's language plays with the juvenile apprehension of reality. Much of it is simplistic enough to be read by children, and in 1939 she published a book, The World Is Round, intended specifically for children, with illustrations by Clement Hurd. In Stein's cosmology, aesthetic productions are deliberately roundThis circularity has a functional purpose not just in the style of her writing--its rhythm and tenor--but in what she saw as the self-referentiality of the artistic act. This roundness is demonstrated by the sanctimonious and often frustrating repetitiveness of her phrases and sentences. Their "nonsense" quality--like deliberate gibberish which delights the childhood mind--is both stubbornly naive and covertly witty. Stein--the voice of her writing--is by turns matronly, child-like, and authoritative. Like a child, she will make over-simplified pronouncements as if they were revealed wisdom, and then be amused by them, with perfect delighted mischief. Her writing often seems to taunt, or tease the reader, as if it were a kind of game. This kind of behavior seems contradictory in a serious writer; she is challenging the limits of the relationship between author (artist) and reader (audience), asking what the ground-rules are, and imagining new play-books.         

James and The Making of Americans

The Making of Americans is a steamroller of gerunds. The participial insistence--they were listening and they were making conversation a conversation about food as they were thinking and eating and tasting what was being said--has an accretive propulsive inertia that overwhelms the reader. The continuous happening of event in this flat time-line erases separate agency (individual volition), and makes everything two-dimensional. Tenses and individual perception are erased. Whereas James had sought to delve more and more deeply into the involved connotations and iterations of thought, feeling and implication through an increasing complexity of sentence structure and multiple points of view, Stein sought to escape from these complications by simply ignoring them or pretending they didn't matter. The abstraction of modern painting, in which form and recognition were stretched and transformed, had shown her that an attempt to alter reality was as interesting an enterprise as attempting to mimic or mirror it; she could create interesting works of prose without having to be accountable to the vivid outlines or relations of people, society or the phenomenal world of inanimate objects, colors, sounds, shapes, etc. It opened up a whole realm of possibility. Things could be things without having any other intended or necessary purpose. The Making of Americans today looks and feels like some immense monument to a dead tradition, almost a camp performance intended to block future efforts. I have described it, elsewhere, as a kind of cathartic throwing-off of the yoke of responsible narration; she could think of having disposed of that duty once and for all. The Great American Novel.            

Stein and Cubism

Much has been made over the decades about the relation between Cubism as a technique of the modern movement in painting, and Stein's concept of literary form. Hemingway's early stripped down prose style in his first published stories appears to owe a debt to Stein's syntactic tricks--the build-up of conjunctive phrases, the reduction of event to a series of basic statements, the directness and lack of any descriptive or interpretive leavening. It's difficult to define precisely how Picasso's visual language affects Stein's work. There's a mosaic quality in some of the canvases which derives from Cezanne's patchy constructions; the Pointillists and the Fauves used bits or daubs to build up larger visual pictures. The closer you get to those canvases, the more they resemble computer generated screens, whose totality is revealed to be made out of dots. If an object could be seen from multiple angles simultaneously, then the limits of space in time in a painting might be overcome. The result could be intriguing but ultimately fragmentary. In writing--where time is a continuous tape running from the beginning to the end, with pauses and rests, and varying speeds, and nodes of meaning, and echoing relationships among words and things--you could literally examine things or groups of things, successively holding them up and turning them this way and that to reveal their opposite sides--their three-dimensional form(s).              

Stein and Domesticity

Stein established a permanent lesbian relationship with Alice B. Toklas, beginning in 1908, a relationship and commitment which lasted until Stein's death in 1946. The domestic world of their household was in many senses traditional, with Alice performing the "feminine" duties, while Stein produced her serious work and entertained guests in her atelier. The works of art and furniture which they acquired over the years were taken into this interior world, and became talismans of their highly articulated life together. In Stein's writing, the immediate settled locus of her speaking voice comes out of a strong sense of place, of being in place. This sense of being is the actual "subject" of much of her experimental writing, of the speaker's pace and wending of meditation. The voice of her work does not strive to get outside itself, or to reach out to the world at large for issues or interest; it is content to peruse things in idleness, in the quiet seclusion of her study. On the circumscribed common of her meditative surface, she toys with and regards things the way a curious child might. The thinking and circling and fidgiting are like knitting, or any domestic task one might engage in, in the protected precincts of the home. Also, we now know that Stein's and Toklas's relationship was characterized by a complex private language, hermetic and intense, emotional and meticulous. Both were creatively engaged with the world: Toklas handled the practical requirements of their life together, while Stein addressed the world of art and philosophy. Together they were a self-sufficient unit that functioned efficiently and got a lot done.     

Stein and Genius

There is a sense of presumption in nearly everything Stein did, a cockiness which is partly the consequence of her financial position, and partly an over-compensating insistence to balance the anxiety of being a woman artist, a lesbian, a Jew, and a kind of gifted amateur among artistic (or literary) professionals. She was reportedly a haughty egotist, convinced of her own artistic genius, and she was not embarrassed to condemn younger writers and artists whom she regarded as her inferiors. At a time, during the 1920's, when her work was little more than a rumor in America (or anywhere for that matter), she presumed to tell Hemingway and William Carlos Williams what she thought of their attempts. She could be cutting and malicious. This sense of her own genius was a myth constructed partly out of her prescience in being among the earliest champions of Matisse and Picasso and Gris, and partly out of the astonishingly novel compositions, most of which she was obliged to self-publish, since there was no publisher who would dare to. By the time she came back to America, in the 1930's, the "reputation" of her "influence" and literary conjurings was large enough that she could use it as a launching pad to assume the populist image of the diminutive little grandmotherly figure, the genius she always had known herself to be.         

Stein and populism

When Stein came to America after the publication of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas [1933], she was lionized and satirized in the press. Her lectures and interviews made her an object of curiosity but she understood how her public persona could be put to good use. She maintained a kind of double identity, one side the serious private experimentalist, the other the media puppet of A Rose is a Rose is a Rose, and she was content to let both versions co-exist. And when the Americans liberated France, she seized that opportunity to celebrate her own patriotism, welcoming the young soldiers and waving the stars and stripes for the cameramen. Whereas on the one hand, her exile from America symbolized a dismissal of the cruder aspects of American culture, its provincial commercialism, its artistic backwardness, she was not against showing the colors when it served her needs.        


This only scratches the surface of a possible array of the aspects of Stein's character, and the different categorical headings one might enumerate. And I intend to cover more of them in future. Among the subject areas, I would include Stein and Class, Stein and Toklas, Stein and Jewishness, Stein and Hermeticism, Stein and Self-Publication, Stein and Sexism, Stein and Automatic Writing, Stein and Exile. Biographies of Stein provide fruitful areas of research as well. One good recent book about her is Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories, edited by Wanda Corn and Tirza True Latimer [University of California Press, 2011]. 


Ed Baker said...

this is a neat "take" on her wok.
maybe someone will go over to Baltimore and Hopkins and delve into what she was doing before the writings ? She was one course shy of becoming the first woman doctor in the United States !

Imagine how those bearded Hopkins doctor-teachers treated her....

she dropped out with one course to go..... Imagine dropping out at such a level..... makes whenever one drops back in much more productive .... like a volcano erupting....

aiPbout 442

(I got about 14 mins into that video, bailed and and turned on a Charlie Chan movie ... Charlie Chan in Egypt (or was it Cairo?) and after that... Mr. Moto.

Charles Shere said...

Stein has fascinated me for years, ever since I was introduced to the opera Four Saints in Three Acts. That would have been in early 1954, when I was approaching nineteen. For many years Stein inspired my musical composition: I set a number of poems from Tender Buttons as songs; I made chamber operas out of two of her plays; my most recent big piece, a long piano sonata, was composed to accompany her lecture Composition as Explanation. In 2002 I gave a lecture, Why I Read Stein, at Mills College; it was subsequently published as a book (Oakland: Mills College Center for the Book, ISBN 0964893851).

Richard Bridgman published his study, Gertrude Stein in Pieces, early in 1971. I interviewed him at the time for a program broadcast on KPFA. I had found the book unbearably negative, even dismissive, and I couldn't figure out why he had spent the time and energy writing it. He had clearly read through Stein's major work; perhaps all of it. I don't recall any details of the interview, and have no idea if it survived on a tape recording. I do remember that at the close of the interview, when I asked what his next subject would be, he told me it would be George Washington. I found that odd at the time; I had assumed his interest lay in Modernist literature. Apparently I was mistaken: American literature was his true love.

I never spoke to him again, to my present regret. He died in 2005, and his obituary, as distributed by the UC Berkeley press office, indicates that he was "a gentle, sweet man with a steel backbone" who "detests mere intellectual fashion, insists on hard work and on wide and deep reading, and rewards independent thinking, even where it diverges markedly from his own inclinations as a critic." (Stephen Booth; Anne Middleton.)

I like your approach to Stein, as sketched out above, an "almanac of probable areas of study or inquiry." The central problem, I think, once past the basic problem of non-narrative literature, is that much of her work concerns a conversation between simultaneity and progression, two quantities inherently opposed. I believe Picasso (and Braque) were tremendously influential on her, as Hermetic Cubism, in almost a Zen-like way, dissolved the tensions between the visibility of objects — bottles, newspapers, seated figures — and both the four-dimensional time-space they occupy. (Or should that be: seem to occupy.)

Picasso (and Braque; never forget Braque's significance in this context) was working toward the beginnings of Cubism at the time that he worked on Stein's portrait, which famously required a number of sittings. Many have speculated as to the conversations between the artist and the model during these sittings. (One thing is apparently known: Picasso's companion and muse at the time, Fernande Olivier, read La Fontaine aloud to them to pass the time.)

Curtis Faville said...


There is a whole segment of Stein's life that precedes her writing career, and her medical studies are one big area of that. Also her connection to William James. She was obviously preoccupied with the same subjects he was, and you can see that in her exploration of "automatic" writing and the access to the unconscious mind.

She changed direction from that of a professional (physician) to artist. I think this involves her relationship to her brother Leo, who was more interested that art, at an earlier point, than she was. I think she was also interested in living in Europe--America may have seemed less comfortable than France for a budding lesbian.

Curtis Faville said...


Are you thinking of the Picasso portrait of Stein (and not Braque)?

There's also a famous sculpture of her, by I forget whom at the moment. Makes her look like a small mountain!

Stein was the first to explore how one might either mimic or describe what the early Modernist painters were doing. He work actually incorporated aspects of their approach, rather than attempting to "describe" it in old aesthetic terms. Tender Buttons is like an analogue for Cubist paintings. Or it is an attempt to make Cubist prose poems.

Ed Baker said...

I have the Wagner-Martin "Favored strangers"

neat "stuff" in it especially about all of those x-pates who went to France as ambulance drivers to get out of having to carry guns and go to the front and fight and die.... instead they hung out in Paris and wrote and drew... about the war... etcs.

as for GS' work ?

i have all of that which Black Sparrow published in early 70's AND
EVERYBODY"S AUTOBIOGRAPHY which I got in 1973 or 74..

on the cover is that statue that you mention:

" "Jo Davidson. 'Gertrude Stein'. 1920. Bronze. 31' HIGH. COLLECTION WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART."

this 1937 autobiography written in 1937 and copyright renewed by Alice B. Toklas in 1964. Mine is a reprint Vintage, $1.95 V-826 of the 1937 edition.

It "hits-the-ground-running'

what of hers that I've read struck an absolute chord.... hit (my) center) and ALL made perfect sense.... and, I dropped reading her .... and WCW for fear of being just another ooh-dunk/piss-and imitator ... without her stamina, intellect AND Balls !

here are a cpl of her pieces as they were done:

she is my rose.

& this neat one:

I love she
She is adorably we.
When it is she
She is me.
She embroiders

think I'll do some reading in Gertrude Stein...
now that I am well past 72 She cant hurt me or be me or me be her at
all for any reasonablenessings

if you pay attention to her writing she really did explain things that she knew a lot of.... sort of.

her A Primer For The Gradual Understanding Of Gertrude Stein (ed. Robert Haas, 1971 is a place to begin...

especially her essay Syntax and Elucidation, 1923 !

et ceteras

or as (probably one of her poet-friends) what's his name wrote:

'do not ask what is it
let us go and make our visit"

authenticity and Integrity of each one's particular voice particularily sung
is what is now missing in our too-fast education establishmentarian ways... ?

well, write me when you have less time
even less than that to be said.

Time for a beer.... or six.

Ed Baker said...

a photo of that ("famous") sculpture is on cover of the 1964 Vintage edition of Stein's 1937

It is of "Gertrude Stein. 1920. Bronze 31". Collection of Whitney Museum of American Art. " and is by Jo Davidson.

Linda Wagner-Martin's "Favored Strangers" is a fun read.

[as soon as I finish reading 'Sri Saundarya Lahari'

I think that I'll read out lound in-and-out of my Stein Stash

to make perfect sense out of what of it-all just is ....

she is one of the few writers whose work makes sense to me !

popping into her work..... here and there, willy-nilly
and reading out loud while standing in cold empty room naked
is akin to some serious orthodox praying-chanting;

Karren Alenier said...

Dear Curtis,

I read your post with interest and see you were inspired to write your history with Stein after the live ModPo web session with Filreis, Perlman, DuPlessis, Bloch and Silliman patched in from afar. Sorry to know you ran up against a Stein detractor. I think you would have contributed significantly to unlocking Stein mysteries.

I too was super invigorated by hearing comments from Perlman, DuPlessis and Silliman. So much so I decided to try my hand at writing posts on individual parts of Tender Buttons. I would love to have your feedback. You can see what I'm up to at http://alenier.blogspot.com. I feel Stein was writing about something in every work she undertook. It's just a question of sitting with it long enough to let the mysterious incubate. Don't know if I will be able to get through the whole of TB but I'm going to try.

Curtis Faville said...


I don't find Tender Buttons as difficult going as you seem to.

I think it's important to begin with any Stein piece on a fairly superficial level, reading just for the rhythm and the sound, and letting the images and phrases wash over you. There's always time later to go back and try to untangle some of the knots.

Stein was trying to keep ordinary narration OUT of her work, at least in the quotidian sense. There are preoccupations and obsessions in her writing. After all, no one can help but reveal who they are in their writing. But the "secret" stories underlying her abstract compositions may not benefit by being fully explicated. By that I mean that the pretext for her work may not be as important as its surface. Any painting is more significant in what it IS, instead of the back-story of its creation, or the private codes and message ir contains.

The dialectic, for instance, between Gertrude and Alice, may be present in many of her most hermetic pieces, but it isn't entirely necessary that we explicate that.

I'm pontificating a bit here, but these are things I've thought about for a long time.

I'll visit your blog.

Ed Baker said...

me again and I tell you that the problem with Stein's work
and other abstract writings and paintings is that
there really is no problem .... it's just what-it-is
and, especially academics who need to Understand
so's to write their next critical study or prep for their next teaching gig...
they just can't embrace the fact of the 'just what (it) is
what-ever "it" may be as
the (abstract) paintings or the (abstract writings are
no more and no less than that: that the writing is what the words do and where they are inside AND outside of any other context or syntax or position between punctuation-ings..


the painting is what the paint does before any museum curator-critic
hangs it on the well-lit wall so to murder it
with little tags of "understanding"


from here. two things:

I'm and nobody is or should be responsible for anyotherbody's
understanding (or knowledge)
the other thing of the two ? I forget as the thinking on it
just came and went, willy-nilly .... however

I leave it with the Credentialists who to do the
shucking and jiving .... and some of them are very good at it.... and really do STUDY so's to talk & write about rather than just do..... and move on.

nothing worse than boring writing and boring talking about writing Gertrude Stein is far from boring....

I got about 10 mins past all of the intros in that video.... very boring....so I moved on to watching a MONK re-run...

"it's a jungle out there" is the neat theme song (Randy Newman's who I think is related to Gertrude Stein, on his mother's side... but I'll have to await his fiction-autobiography to be for sure).

Curtis Faville said...


Critics--and I include myself here--enjoy talking about poetry.

I like reading it, but not as much as some people do. I can't, for instance, read narrative poems. I just don't have that much thirst for verse.

But trying to explain why certain poems work and others don't is endlessly diverting. Sometimes it even helps me appreciate poems more than I would otherwise.

Poems are not problems, to be solved like mathematical equations. But understanding how they work, and what it is about a poem that makes it miraculous--that's a worthy enterprise.

Ed Baker said...

from this-here and now point-of-view AND
simultaneous departure from
the last thing that I need , or can USE, is any which way of a prescriptive, definitive how to write or draw
correctly (politically, religiously, or (especially)
correctly analyzed-to-death how a poem or paining "means" or what-it-is as written down on a little plaque on a all next to it or a paper about how it is composed !

and then repeat and repeat and repeat what is same-way TAUGHT
in every single place in USA schools from
pre-school to and through post post pee ache deeds to death and ad nauseum...

might as well eat worms and die ?

Curtis Faville said...

Yeah, that's when I knock off and have a cocktail.

Karren Alenier said...


I hear what you are saying about letting the work wash over you.

Reading Tender Buttons requires the reader to engage with the writer. Gertrude Stein brings her life to her work. She never divorces herself from herself.

To have a conversation with Tender Buttons is to see what the words, phrases, sentences, stanzas, poems parts, sections bring to mind.

Yes, I can read TB out loud and say I have read the work. Having a conversation with the work and others who have experience with Stein makes reading TB worthwhile.

Is this approach "solving" Stein? No. This approach is opening doors that Stein offers. It involves the reader's creativity and playfulness. I agree with you about discovering how the poems works. Stein's process is fun to follow.

Ed Baker said...

Yes Indeed:

creativity and playfulness and a keen sense of "self"
together with a bit of an edge towards humor and receptiveness ....

seems to me that there is also a positivity and instinct
that embraces in-and-through her work a degree of
(what I can only explain) as Autism

where ALL of the/her creative senses are on another plain that is far beyond any norms and all of the et ceteras that become rational disseretations on her ('things' ?

Charles Shere said...

A lot of Tender Buttons, like a lot of other GS writing, is erotic. What do you think those tender buttons were?

Curtis Faville said...


There's a lot of disguised sexual innuendo in Stein.

In one of her early pieces--I think in Geography and Plays--there is a short piece where she describes two women as being "gay" several times.

As I understand it, there are countless thinly veiled references in her work--if you know where to look, and what the code words are.

There was a book published recently of the private "billet"-notes that Stein and Toklas exchanged in their privacy, which contain a lot of naughty stuff.