Collision Course

Last summer I read Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife.* The story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first spouse, the book achingly depicts the couple’s struggle to maintain their marriage in Paris during the Jazz Age, surrounded by a new morality–or lack of it–and socializing with the likes of Ezra Pound, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein.

The Paris Wife

While The Great Gatsby was on my required reading lists, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas was not. In fact, I was woefully ignorant of Gertrude Stein’s work.

So I found it timely when recently one of her poems appeared in my Inbox. Here it is:

Tender Buttons (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.

I read it once. Twice. Yes, a third time. I’m going to just spit it out: I didn’t get it.

What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I perceive this Lost Generation legend as the literary giant she is? I held a minority opinion about an icon. What retaliation from the scholarly elite might result if my lone voice cried out in dissent?

Then I remembered. I had Google at my disposal. Perhaps I would find a kindred spirit, equally unenlightened and, dare I say it, equally disdainful.

I did, in Guy Bergstrom’s 2011 post on his blog, The Red Pen of Doom, titled “Gertrude Stein is a literary TRAIN WRECK.”

A quick quote, because I can’t resist: “The worst rapper on the planet is better than this. At least I know what he’s talking about, it rhymes and you can dance to it.”

You can read the piece in its entirety here:

Comments from both camps welcome. Especially if you are a Stein supporter, do write and explain yourself. Please.

*Published February 27, 2011 by Ballantine Books.


Author: Tricia Pimental

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Tricia Pimental's second memoir, A Movable Marriage, has received 5 Star reviews from both Epic Book Quest and Readers' Favorite. It's available on Amazon in both Kindle ( and print ( versions. She is also the author of two Royal Palm Literary Award Competition-honored books: Rabbit Trail: How a Former Playboy Bunny Found Her Way, and Slippery Slopes. Other work has appeared in International Living Magazine; A Janela, the quarterly magazine of International Women in Portugal; and anthologies compiled by the Florida Writers Association and the National League of American Pen Women. A member of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and a former Toastmaster, Ms. Pimental resides in Portugal. She can be reached at and on Twitter @Tricialafille.

4 thoughts on “Collision Course”

  1. ‘Tricia, LOL! I am so glad you didn’t get it either. I was so worried you were going to tell me (us) that this nonsense actually meant something. I really believe that most people, as in 99.9% have no idea what this is all about, but most are simply to afraid of what others will think if they say it. I feel the same way about a lot of ‘modern’ art – most 5 yr olds can paint better!


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