GEMS: Book Description
Censorship is on everyone's mind today, with news sources, governments, and schools trying to hide something sensitive from the roving eyes of children, citizens, and WikiLeaks whistleblowers. Bob Brown's Gems (1931) has much to teach us as he spoofs the redacting censors, and demonstrates how to read like a censor. Brown published this mad-libs-like send-up in his series of visually daring books about modern reading including The Readies, Words, Gems, Demonics, and Readies for Bob Brown's Machine.
"Brown wanted to produce a volume that would use visual design to expose the logic of censorship, by redacting words and phrases using the censor’s black bar, since he typeset the marks individually. Reading a censored document produces a material and poetic situation that differs from reading the same text without any censored lines. The demonstration makes all of the classic poems, or the gems of the literary cannon, seem obscene. He printed and published Gems in the same year as Words. Bob dedicated the volume to Cunard in the hope that she would find in it a 'lifelong fountain of innocent and exalted pleasure; a source of animation to friends when they meet, a book of beauties which the eye cannot see but may easily imagine.'"
~Craig Saper, from his Introduction
Praise for GEMS:
"Anticipating the two most powerful poetic techniques of the twenty-first century--appropriation and detournement--Bob Brown's Gems makes a travesty of the received cultural canon. With a shrewdly theoretical understanding that censorship is inevitably self-defeating, because it is always bought at the cost of newly provoked libiditudes, Brown demonstrates that the puritanical and the prurient are locked in a dynamic ratio of inverse proportions. But beyond its ostensible critique of hypocritical literary repression and its parting modernist shot at the pieties of the Victorian- era's Golden Treasuries, Brown's book is a classic of burlesque humor. It will make you ---- so hard you'll ----."
~Craig Dworkin, Professor of English, University of Utah, author of Reading the Illegible and No Medium, and co-editor with Kenneth Goldsmith of Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing
About the Editor
Craig Saper is Professor and Director of the Language, Literacy, and Culture Ph.D. Program at UMBC in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. He is the author of Intimate Bureaucracies (2012), Networked Art (2001), and Artificial Mythologies (1997) and has edited or co-edited volumes on Posthumography (2010), Imaging Place (2009), and Drifts (2007). He has published widely on Fluxus and visual poetry and serves as the Reviews Editor and Blog Report columnist for Rhizomes and Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures
His curatorial projects include exhibits on Assemblings (1997), Noigandres: Concrete Poetry in Brazil (1988), and TypeBound (2008), and folkvine.org (2003-6). In addition, he has published two other pamphlets On Being Read (1985) and Raw Material (2008). Saper originally published editions of Bob Brown's Words (2009) and Readies (2009) with Rice University Press. Presently, he is writing a biography of the poet-publisher-impresario-writer in every imaginable genre, Bob Brown, who invented an avant-garde reading machine.