JOE: A Memoir of Joe Brainard

Ron Padgett, Author . Coffee House $30 (280p) ISBN 978-1-56689-160-8 ISBN 978-1-56689-159-2

Padgett (Oklahoma Tough ) offers an affectionate memoir of New York artist Joe Brainard, his friend for nearly four decades. It may be that very familiarity, though, that keeps Padgett from crafting a lean, cohesive narrative. While the author hints at intriguing aspects of Brainard's character (how, for example, did this supposedly shy, repressed artist carry on so many different sexual relationships at the same time?), he never fully fleshes them out. Instead, in episodic sections that vary in length, Padgett concentrates on the day-to-day aspects of their friendship, charting their early years in New York, Brainard's artistic growth, his travels, his friends and lovers, his drug use and his " 'start-over' binges." Padgett is occasionally transfixed by minutiae; he includes one of Brainard's summer reading lists as well as an itemized accounting of one of his breakfasts. But despite—or perhaps because of—his obsession with details, Padgett's portrait of Brainard feels personal and authentic. And while he doesn't provide deep insight into the mind of Brainard, who died in 1994 of complications from AIDS, Padgett deftly captures the feel of mid-1960s New York, with its endless parade of celebrities, near-celebrities, hangers-on, has-beens and never-wases. And certainly he has done a brilliant job of assembling the raw material—countless letters and several dozen photographs—for a further study of his subject. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/20/2004
Release date: 01/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 357 pages - 978-1-56689-159-2
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