Friday, December 02, 2005

Another Post After Dark

George Grosz, Berlin Dada artist of New Objectivity, did this painting Remember Uncle August the Happy Inventor which has buttons sewn onto it. Here are more.

The days have become so short, I've restructured to take advantage of my greater productivity during daylight. I'm alert until late at night, but occupied with mindless puttering and consuming of entertainment. Until we seriously turn the corner post-solstice, I may be posting after the daily to-dos are done.

Today was largely about buttons. There are multiples to be restored and replaced, so I went to a boutique called Tender Buttons. It's a narrow, Dickensian hall with worn wood acoutrements and all manner and size and color of buyable buttons in little stacked boxes from floor to ceiling. Precious and delicate antique buttons from various eras and lands are displayed behind lit, glass cases. The staff are helpful and skinny, as they must be to maneuver. It's a charming place, if tight quarters for extended browsing. After returning home, I surfed to see if there was a picture of this divine curiosity shoppe online. Instead, I found the Gertrude Stein book for which the stores in NYC and Chicago are named.

Some of Stein's pithier comments have struck me as witty and accurate. But really, I'm only familiar with her in petit-four sized bites, so I went to the book's excerpt to explore a bit. Tender Buttons is reportedly a representative exhibit of Stein's peculiar repetition, wordplay, and roundabout approach to meaning. I share a paragraph:

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.

The strange wording and punctuation do force me, a quick reader, to slow down to make sure I'm getting the order right. I read it aloud, then played with the emphasis until I felt I'd teased some general sense of the thing from it. I don't particularly enjoy it in a deeper way than deciphering it (yet), but I tired of Ferlinghetti, too. And not Eliot. There's something to be said for being the originator of a new style. Now, you may choose to read more about Gertrude Stein's life and times here, and delve deeply into her groundbreaking work, but I've already become enlightened and improved enough for one day.

What should be the catchy name for that thing I seek most to read and create, that magical amalgam of snappy storytelling with high-quality writing that merits rereading?

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