Friday, July 31, 2015
THE BOOK ..........................- TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................- FOOD
TABLE OF CONTENTS ...................-
WORD COUNT......................- 56
THE LEADER........................- THE STEINY ROAD POET
CO-LLABORATORS..............- MODPO STUDENTS/THE BUTTONS
“As food is the essence of life, the table supports the act of eating and the act of thinking where food for thought plays. A subset of Stein’s diet is the table of contents which points to the all important production of books, the babies made by Gertrude Stein and her life partner Alice Babette Toklas.” Karren Alenier
ROASTBEEF; MUTTON; BREAKFAST; SUGAR; CRANBERRIES; MILK; EGGS; APPLE; TAILS; LUNCH; CUPS; RHUBARB; SINGLE; FISH; CAKE; CUSTARD; POTATOES; ASPARAGUS; BUTTER; END OF SUMMER; SAUSAGES; CELERY; VEAL; VEGETABLE; COOKING; CHICKEN; PASTRY; CREAM; CUCUMBER; DINNER; DINING; EATING; SALAD; SAUCE; SALMON; ORANGE; COCOA; AND CLEAR SOUP AND ORANGES AND OAT-MEAL; SALAD DRESSING AND AN ARTICHOKE; A CENTRE IN A TABLE.
ROASTBEEF ......MUTTON ......BREAKFAST ......SUGAR
CRANBERRIES ......MILK ......EGGS ......APPLE ......TAILS
LUNCH ...CUPS ...RHUBARB ... SINGLE FISH ... CAKE ... CUSTARD
POTATOES ...... ASPARAGUS ...... BUTTER ...... END OF SUMMER
SAUSAGES ...... CELERY ...... VEAL ...... VEGETABLE ...... COOKING
CHICKEN ...... PASTRY ...... CREAM ...... CUCUMBER ...... DINNER
DINING ...EATING ...SALAD ... SAUCE ... SALMON ... ORANGE
COCOA AND CLEAR SOUP AND ORANGES AND OAT-MEAL
SALAD DRESSING AND AN ARTICHOKE ... A CENTRE IN A TABLE.
Before the Steiny Road Poet begins blogging the subpoems of “Food”, the second section of this long love poem that Gertrude Stein wrote to celebrate her clandestine marriage to Alice Babette Toklas, a few words on the table of contents that introduces “Food” seem necessary.
THE FORMATTING OF THE FOOD TOC
In Tender Buttons: The Corrected Centennial Edition, editor Seth Perlow explains that the First Edition of Tender Buttons published by Donald Evans for his Claire Marie press used semi-colons between the strung-together items of the table of contents that precedes “Food”. Only section 2 “Food” has a table of contents.
Perlow, who studied all the formatting presentations of Tender Buttons, returned in The Corrected Centennial Edition to the typescript prepared by Toklas, which has no punctuation between the items. However, unlike the typescript and Stein’s original manuscript written in her scrawling hand, which was formatted in sentence case, Perlow keeps the block capitals. In Stein’s manuscript, the table of contents appears with the elements contained in four columns.
FOOD IS CENTRAL; TABLES ARE CENTRAL
Like the entirety of Tender Buttons, there is nothing ordinary about her table of contents. Whatever Stein’s intention was in arranging the items of the table in columns was never explained by the author as far as Steiny knows. As Stein’s publishing editor, Evans liked things tidy for as much as this was possible with this highly experimental artist. He wanted his order of the sections: “Objects”, “Food”, and “Rooms” published. Toklas, according to Joshua Schuster in “The making of ‘Tender Buttons’: Gertrude Stein’s subjects, objects, and the illegible”, bound the typescript starting with “Rooms”. Schuster also says that archival evidence points to “Objects” as the last section. So one might conclude as does Stein’s table of contents, which ends the item “A CENTER IN A TABLE”, that the author considered “Food” central to what she hoped to achieve by putting together Objects”, “Food”, and “Rooms”. Originally and for whatever reason unknown to us, Stein considered the three sections separate works and Schuster notes that this tri-part structure was similar to the three short stories that make up her earlier self-published work Three Lives.
PUNNING ON EIGHT ATE
What the non-columnar layouts of the table of contents (as seen above) look like to Steiny is a spacious prose poem. However, the fact that Stein does not faithfully list every subpoem of “Food” but instead occasionally indicates a category that may have several subpoems clearly signals that Stein meant the table to be informational and not sonic as a poem might be. Not all the items of the table are categories. The categories are:
milk for “Milk.” which appears twice and for "Cream." which also appears twice
potatoes for “Potatoes.”, “Potatoes.”, and “Roast potatoes.”
vegetable for “Vegetable.” and “Way lay vegetable.”
chicken for “Chicken.” which appears four times
eating which appears twice
orange for “Orange.”, “Orange.”, “Oranges.”, and “Orange in.”
cocoa and clear soup and oranges and oat-meal, which appears twice
salad dressing and an artichoke, which appears twice
Could Stein with her eight “Food” categories being punning on the word ate? All the categories except eating are food. Because not all the items of the table of contents are food (e.g. “Cups.”, “Cooking.” “Dining.”), Steiny thinks Stein meant to say something significant by inserting a category for eating as opposed to making categories of cooking and dining. One theory that Steiny will explore in talking about the subpoems of “Food” is Stein is playing with Jewish numerology.
CHAIN BOATS & FOOD?
One additional thing to note is the table of contents does not acknowledge a subpoem titled “Chain-boats.” What does a chain boat have to do with food? During Stein’s time chain boats were used to haul goods on shallow rivers like the Seine in Paris.
FINDING ALICE B. TOKLAS IN TABLE
Here’s what Peter Treanor had to say about the “Food” table of contents:
“I saw somewhere, someone (maybe you, Karren [a.k.a. Steiny]) saying how she [Stein] had laid her food out in and on a table. Before she even started writing about the foods in the Food section, she has a table of contents. And that TABLE seems a very constant and important theme for her throughout TB.
“And I was looking at A CENTRE IN A TABLE at the end of her table of contents. I don’t know if this has been stated before, but in TABle I saw TAB or ABT, good old Alice B Toklas. Is she the centre of table, the centre of the table?. Is she the surface that GS can spread her feast on, the holder of the food and fruits, the centre of the scene of social entertainment?
“The other thing I noticed was that only some of the things on the table were food. some are meal related—BREAKFAST; LUNCH; CUPS; COOKING; DINNER; DINING; EATING; A CENTRE IN A TABLE—and one seems less directly so but could be associated with harvest time and the time of most fruitfulness END OF SUMMER.
She seems to be coming at food from many different many different angles.”
Karren Alenier responded:
“I know Xactly what you are saying about not knowing where things have gotten posted and when you talk about Stein setting things out on the table as she prepares to write about them, what I remember is that we talked about this first in ModPo 2013.
“So let's just agree to double and not worry where something might have been posted before.
“Now back to the table. It's a huge big deal because we have all sorts of tables possible beyond the writing-eating table (Stein used the dining room table at night as her writing table as I understand it. So there is an interest double that has value for writing and for eating.)
“Yes, there is the Table of Contents prefacing the "Food" section.
“I have been marveling that her ToC lists breakfast lunch dinner in chronological order. And I hear you that some of the items are not food but aspects of eating and food. That quirkiness makes her chronological listing of breakfast lunch dinner more remarkable to me.
“As to finding ABT in TABle, I think Alice gives Gertrude stability— ABT helped GS with her writing by typing it and she took care of feeding GS.”
FOOD, A STRATEGIC ROAD MAP
In a way, the table of contents for “Food” provides a strategic road map for the journey through section 2, which is denser and possibly more metaphysical than section 1 “Objects”. And while Stein provides ample food for thought, she still depends on physical objects like tables and cups. She also is intent in keeping the discipline of bookmaking in sight. So she provides her unorthodox table of contents.