Gratis Currency / Free Books

On Saturday I finished an essay about the chapbooks Alex Caldiero has been producing at a rapid pace over the last couple of years.


In answer to my question about why the sudden and prolific production, Alex said that he “wanted to reach out, to create a current and a currency, a gratis currency to exchange what I call documents of our common presence.”

That same day I received this book in the mail from Concord Free Press:



I ordered the book online, where I found an explanation that the press is an experiment in “subversive altruism,” and in return for the free book they ask that you donate to a charity or to someone in need and to report your donation. The final step in the process is to pass the book on to another reader when you are done, and there’s a page at the end for you to sign your name and for the next reader to sign their name and so on.


The project reminded me of the Free Store in the Haight in the 60’s and of the zines Alex cites as inspirations for his chapbooks: Semina, Beatitude, Origin, and Clown War.

I already have the novella Brian Evenson published earlier as a limited edition with Tyrant Books,


but I don’t know Paul Tremblay’s work . . . and, the idea of free books + generosity + altruism tickled my interest.

I made my donation to Scott Carrier’s podcast Home of the Brave to support the series on Bears Ears National Monument in which he interviews several of the Native Americans whose land that once was. They  worked eagerly with the Obama administration to develop a proposal that protects a place they hold dear. The Trump administration has shoved aside those collaborative interests to privilege what it calls “local voices” — meaning the voices of extractive industry.

Check out the Concord Free Press, Scott Carrier’s podcast, and watch for my essay on Alex’s chapbooks in a future edition of 15 Bytes, Utah’s Art Magazine.

. . . CONTINUING AND DEEPENING THE DISCUSSION, ALEX sent me the following today:

“here are some further notes on gratis currency (thanks to your blog post this
morning, i felt a need to further clarify myself and distinguish “gratis
currency” from “free” or “gift” or “object/thing”)—.
gratis = favor/ grace /not by work / gratitude /even gratuitous, etc.—
currency = current (in the present) current (flow as in a river) current (as
in an electrical impulse) currency (a money-value-mode of exchange)—
gratis currency is a mix of these two concepts including all their
result: an exchange of BEING, hence, the “more i give the more
i am”—  the gain primarily an inner phenomenon, more akin to consciousness
and conscience, than to any kind of reward or payback and such—  the
chapbook, as object/thing, is a vehicle for this exchange. but as object and
product it has a double life, depending on the intent of the giver and the
expectation of the receiver. thus, It can be gratis currency or a mere
publication with aesthetic qualities—  gratis currency is a “para-object”!”

About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at
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