Tender Buttons

I was just telling my beloved that I find my ability to get jealous of other people’s ideas quite unnerving.  It’s not like there is a limited number of good ideas in the world, or that I have never had a good idea myself (PUH-LEASE) and yet still, when I see other people cracking great stories or doing excellent projects, I bristle and think, “Stupid me, why didn’t I think of that?!”

This goes too for the new edition of Tender Buttons, illustrated by Lisa Congdon.  My jealousy is doubly meaningless here because I am not an illustrator.  But when you look at the wonderfully whimsical drawings below, can you blame me for envying her talent and idea?



Although come to think of it, I do have a pretty good idea involving this book.  Admittedly, when I was in college and read TB in a graduate school seminar, I was a bit befuddled by it.  I was trying to find the meaning behind the words, not allowing the prose itself –– the rhythm of it, the feel of it in your mouth –– to give me pleasure.  One day, a fellow student said a friend of hers had given the book to her six-year-old daughter, and that the girl had read it with great delight, and she realized that perhaps the best way to read the text was as a child would.  It was a lightbulb moment for me, and has made me want to re-read the book ever since, which I have yet to do (someone buy me the Congdon version?)  I’m thinking maybe there should be an audiobook of TB read entirely by kids under the age of ten.  Imagine this in a kindergartener’s voice:


A season in yellow sold extra strings makes lying places.


The sudden spoon is the same in no size. The sudden spoon is the wound in the decision.


Coloring high means that the strange reason is in front not more in front behind. Not more in front in peace of the dot.


A light white, a disgrace, an ink spot, a rosy charm.


A star glide, a single frantic sullenness, a single financial grass greediness.

Object that is in wood. Hold the pine, hold the dark, hold in the rush, make the bottom.

A piece of crystal. A change, in a change that is remarkable there is no reason to say that there was a time.

A woolen object gilded. A country climb is the best disgrace, a couple of practices any of them in order is so left.


A pleasant simple habitual and tyrannical and authorised and educated and resumed and articulate separation. This is not tardy.

Auditions will be held this summer.  Reach out if you’d like to pimp out your child for this.



All this invocation of the word “tender,” by the way, has made me reflect lovingly on the Disney cartoon Recess, in which the kids use “tender” as a synonym for “awesome.”  Great idea: spread this habit.

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