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Levarr Burton would never allow Williamsburg artist Sal Randolph's latest book FreeWords to be reviewed by the children of Reading Rainbow. If he did, then Jenny, age 9, would have to say, "If you like avant-avant guarde concept art and have read Marcel Mauss's 18th century study of the gift economies of the Kwakiutl culture, then you're going to love Sal Randolph's new book Freewords. Actually, it isn't a book so much as a list of 13,000 semi-random words and word fragments! Randolph has hidden hundreds of these "books" throughout bookstores in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and if you find one, you can just take it because they're free! My favorite part in the "book" is when Randolph writes: "ARY CANARY AIRY EERY Y FUL ING." I also enjoyed "giving" the "book" to my acidhead older brother and watch him howl like a madman.

Now hold on a second. Before you say, "Randolph's concept art book Freewords is so much tripe, and exactly the sort of thing that I can't stand" let's go over the facts:

1. You know little to nothing about modern art.
2. Sal Randolph went to Harvard, clever little thing that she is.
3. Though reading the entire book in one sitting would make me cry from frustration and and madness, parts of Freewords are actually quite pretty bits of poetry like "American SKY LIVING SHEER" and "BRAIN-CORAL IMMENSE BRICK-DUST PHOSPHOR ETERNAL UNDULATIONS."
4. Reading the semi-random words and word fragments of Freewords stimulates the imagination, but if you read it for too long you'll feel crazy, sad, and ill.

Oh no. I think I hear some of you little idiots saying, "Whatever, I've got one of those stupid word-magnet sets on my refrigerator, I could write a book like this." Well write one then! You'll only be furthering Marcel Mauss's concept philosophy of a gift-giving society! Ha! Ha!

Actually, I must admit that before I spoke to Sal Randolph, who is actually a very charming woman, I had never heard of Monsieur Mauss. Born in 1872, this French brainiac was the nephew of famous sociologist Emile Durkheim. Though Durkheim had a few perky philosophies of his own, Mauss's thing was gift-giving economic models. To that end, Mauss studied the Kwakiutl culture of British Columbia, whose chiefs used to brag to other chiefs, that they could give/throw away more nice things than anyone else. In a link that Randolph provides (www.revuedumauss.com/Pages/APROP.html), it illustrates how one chief gave his citizens thousands of silver bracelets and then pulled a KLF by setting fire to money and sinking famous heirlooms into the ocean. I know that you're not supposed to waste things, but God bless them anyway.

Though it was very heavy going dear readers, for you I slogged through 10 paragraphs about Mauss. One sentence said that, "Mauss held that in past market-less societies - and by implication, in any truly humane future one - 'the economy,' in the sense of an autonomous domain of action concerned solely with the creation and distribution of wealth, and which proceeded by its own, impersonal logic, would not even exist."

Raise your hand if you're exhausted. I am.

Anyway, despite some of the things I've said, Freewords is an interesting book and I'm glad that I have a copy. Sal Randolph has quite a few of them around Williamsburg bookstores (without asking the owners! naughty, naughty!) and you should keep your eye out for them.

If you find one and feel inspired to write about your experience with the book do NOT write to me, but rather post it to freewords.org's EXPERIENCE page. A woman named Lisa is so far, the only one who has decided to write about her experience. Though Lisa's email address sounds dirty, like she's one of those people that spam me pornography links, she's really quite nice. She writes about how she found her book and that: "I have since decided to create a little project of my own -- I am going to pass it around to some folks, and we are going to use up every single word in it to make a writing collection of our own. It'll be hard to do, especially with all the technical terms and the fragments, but the result could be really exciting." God bless the Kwatiutl chiefs, Lisa, and the cock-crazed nymphos she keeps recommending to me.

Click here to learn more about the freewords project, and keep your eyes open. A text version of Freewords can be found here: http://freewords.org/fwtext.html.

Oliver Turner

Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | December 2001 | Issue 21
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