The Collected Writings

Joe Brainard, edited by Ron Padgett, with a preface by Paul Auster. Library of America, $35 (576p) ISBN 978-1-59853-149-7
Uncommonly versatile and uncommonly funny, Brainard (1942–1994) might be best-known for I Remember (1968–1975), a disarming, beautiful, experimental memoir made from hundreds of largely unconnected sentences, each one beginning the same way: “I remember the sound of the ice cream man coming./ I remember once losing my nickel in the grass before he made it to my house./ I remember that life was just as serious then as it is now.” Brainard was more prolific, and at least as influential, in visual art, which he usually saw as his primary work, including book covers, oil paintings, postmodern cartoons and comic strips, and collaborations on artists’ books. Along with the last, longest version of I Remember, this volume gathers ample diaries from the 1960s and 1970s, composed in New York City, Vermont, and Bolinas, Calif.; two interviews; selected sketches, cartoons and hand-written pieces; and short aphoristic, or mock-aphoristic, verse and prose. Brainard is usually grouped with the second generation of New York School writers: some readers will seek, and find, gossip about them here, while others will take to the quirky and moving one-liners: “I don’t have an inferiority complex or anything like that, but for some reason I’m always trying to prove myself”; “The only thing that ever bothered me about being queer was that I thought maybe people wouldn’t like me if I knew.” (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/26/2012
Release date: 03/29/2012
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