Studies in Description Front Cover

Paperback / softback
ISBN: 9780889229617
Pages: 408
Pub. Date: April 12 2016
Dimensions: 9" x 6" x 1"
Rights: Available: WORLD
Non-Fiction / LIT014000


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Studies in Description
Reading Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons
By Carl Peters

Difficult writing has its way of illuminating the part of the world that counts. One such difficult text is Gertrude Stein’s highly experimental Tender Buttons: objects, food, rooms – long considered the single most groundbreaking literary work of twentieth-century art, literary criticism, and art history. One hundred years since publication, Carl Peters offers a sustained reading of the 1914 edition, responding to the eccentric sounds and rhythms of this long prose-poem with annotations that bring understanding, in particular, to the composition’s syntax, which is noted for its defiance of conventional norms; for example:

Roast potatoes for.
[Annotation] Grounded! Such annotations demonstrate that an apprehension of Stein’s whole art comes from the project and praxis of reading the work literally, actually. “Read her with her for less,” she asserts. “Translate more than translate the authority.”

In Studies in Description: Reading Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, Peters demonstrates ways in which Stein’s thought questions everything, underlining reasons that her work has long served as the wellspring for generations of experimental poets, inspiring Language movement poets such as bill bissett, bpNichol, and George Bowering, and novelists such as William Gass, Sherwood Anderson, and Ernest Hemingway.

The Modernist work Tender Buttons can be used to show how in the early twentieth century Stein and others helped us discover a different world in our midst, a moment of the Modern.

“carl peters book on gertrude stein / is an essenshul n deep undrstanding / uv th work uv sumwun who displayd / n creatid enerjeez that shapd sew / manee langwage arts that undrstood / n went byond or outside uv th objek / tiv correlativ uv modernist writing 2 / convey manee othr equalee import / ant platforms n navigaysyuns uv all / th langwage arts without gertrude / stein sew much uv that xploraysyun / n presentaysyun enjoyment n alt / ternate serchimg showing n wisdom / cud not have ocurrd carl peters / shows all thees in an amayzing n / brillyant xaminaysyun n offring uv / what gertrude stein brout 2 sew / manee uv us 4 wch we ar sew grateful / showing langwage can b a way byond / n outside uv representaysyun words / being things in themselvs 2 enjoy / play thrive n reveer manee storees / manee meenings n byond meening / manee lettrs byond image lettring / manee sylabuls byond pointing n / describing manee voices manee / voyages manee sees / ium sew grateful 4 ths brillyant / work uv carl peters”
—bill bissett

“You don’t read Gertrude Stein’s 1914 prose poem Tender Buttons casually – or you could try, but grow frustrated: The eye trips along the lines faster than the mind makes sense, and that’s on purpose. Tender Buttons isn’t nonsense, though it’s been called that by readers who haven’t the patience for its syntactic difficulty; Stein means to be difficult because she finds meaning there. Pause. Slow down. Look at the sentence the way you read a Picasso. How do you make sense of Picasso? That’s how you read Gertrude Stein. I crib these remarks from Carl Peters’s introduction to Studies in Description, his intense, personal study of meaning-finding in Stein’s work, though on reading Stein I speak from experience. Studies runs two texts in parallel: On the left page, Tender Buttons (the definitive, City Lights edition); on the right, Peters’s annotations. If you haven’t read the main text before, I recommend doing that first. But remember: Go slow.” – Globe & Mail

“carl peters book on gertrude stein / is an essenshul n deep undrstanding / uv th work uv sumwun who displayd / n creatid enerjeez that shapd sew / manee langwage arts that undrstood / n went byond or outside uv th objek /”
—bill bissett

"Studies in Description is the midrashic feast that Tender Buttons has always promised. Stein’s wordness has never been better served.” – Charles Bernstein