The Amazing Adventures of Bob Brown: A Real-Life Zelig Who Wrote His Way through the 20th Century

The Amazing Adventures of Bob Brown: A Real-Life Zelig Who Wrote His Way through the 20th Century

The Amazing Adventures of Bob Brown: A Real-Life Zelig Who Wrote His Way through the 20th Century

The Amazing Adventures of Bob Brown: A Real-Life Zelig Who Wrote His Way through the 20th Century


Contemporary publishing, e-media, and writing owe much to an unsung hero who worked in the trenches of the culture industry (for pulp magazines, Hollywood films, and advertising) and caroused and collaborated with the avant-garde throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Robert Carlton Brown (1886-1959) turned up
in the midst of virtually every significant American literary, artistic, political, and popular or countercultural movement of his time--from Chicago's Cliff Dweller's Club to Greenwich Village's bohemians and the Imagist poets; from the American vanguard expatriate groups in Europe to the Beats. Bob Brown churned out pulp fiction and populist cookbooks, created the first movie tie-ins, and invented a surreal reading machine more than seventy-five years ahead of e-books. He was a real-life Zelig of modern culture.

With The Amazing Adventures of Bob Brown, Craig Saper disentangles, for the first time, the many lives and careers of the intriguing figure behind so much of twentieth-century culture. Saper's lively and engaging yet erudite and subtly experimental style offers a bold new approach to biography that perfectly complements his multidimensional subject. Readers are brought along on a spirited journey with Bob and the Brown clan--Cora (his mother), Rose (his wife), and Bob, a creative team who sometimes went by the name of CoRoBo--through globetrotting, fortune-making and fortune-spending, culture-creating and culture-exploring adventures. Along the way, readers meet many of the most important cultural figures and movements of the era and are witness to the astonishingly prescient vision Brown held of the future of American cultural life in the digital age.

Although Brown traveled and lived all around the world, he took Manhattan with him, and his New York City had boroughs around the world.


Bob had been not just one person,
but Bob , Bob , Bob , etc.

Walter Lowenfels

The title character of Woody Allen’s mockumentary Zelig transformed his appearance and personality, chameleon-like, depending on the situation in which he found himself, and the name now defines that postmodern personality type who morphs into multiple roles. the Zelig character type also illuminates an apt, even if comically absurd, illumination of the quintessential American ethos of self-invention and reinvention. For Robert Carlton Brown ii (1886–1959), self-invention began at age seven, and his pulling himself up by his bootstraps would culminate in Brown’s becoming one of the most successful writers and publishers of the first half of the twentieth century. But Bob was not just one person.

He was a bestselling short-fiction writer for the pulps, writer of the stories for the first serial movies made (e.g., What Happened to Mary, 1912), and later a Hollywood treatment writer (writing one treatment about switched babies and mistaken identity). That was Bob . Besides his great success in contributing to American popular culture, he was a central character in the avant-garde arts, both among the expatriate writers, publishers, and artists in France and among the Imagist poets in Greenwich Village and the artists’ colony near Grantwood Village on the New Jersey Palisades near the town of Ridgefield. That was Bob . Besides his importance among the vanguard, he was also an entrepreneur and owner of multiple business ventures, and he was a world traveler circumnavigating the globe first class, a wealthy international publisher, an art and artifact collector, a philanthropist, and a Wall Street stock trader. That was Bob . He was also a Communist commune worker, an instructor at a . . .

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