Monday, May 7, 2012

I remember "I Remember" and now I remember reading "The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard"

I just got done reading The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard.  (With a lovely introduction by Paul Auster) Which led me to re-read Ron Padgett's warm and touching memoir of his friendship with artist and writer Brainard, called Joe, which led me to pull out a coffee table book, Joe Brainard: A Retrospective, so I could look again at his wonderful work.  I am particularly drawn to collage, and Brainard did tons of work in collage--in his amphetamine-fueled years he produced thousands of works.

I think what attracts me to the art, as well as to his writing, is its sheer likability. Brainard talks a lot in his written work about wanting to be liked.  In the writing this doesn't come off as preciousness, or over-eagerness. The reason I Remember has become such a classic is because of the works' humor and lack of pretension or artifice--each statement starts with the plain-spoken and practical "I remember," followed by an image or memory that might be mundane, or it might be touching in its vulnerability:
I remember running  for vice-president and giving a campaign speech wearing my baby blue garbardine pants. I lost. That was junior high school.

I remember that nobody ever knew what to give Aunt Ruby on special occasions so everyone always gave her some stationary or scarves or handkerchiefs or boxes of fancy soap.

I remember daydreams of being a girl and the beautiful formals I would have.

The beauty of the Collected Writings is that there's so much more to see.  I Remember is what Brainard will be remembered for, at least in the realm of the written word, but this collection of journals, jottings, collaborations, and experiments shows he was more than a one-hit wonder.  Here, in its entirety, is "No Story."

I hope you have enjoyed not reading this story as much as I have enjoyed not writing it.

He reminds me, sometimes, of Gertrude Stein.  Here are three of the "Twenty-three Mini Essays":

He was at the airport when his ship came in.

Poetry is that certain something we so often find missing.

                   INSTANT DIVORCE 
The marriage was so brief they had nothing to fight over but the cake.


Here's a three minute introduction to Joe Brainard, courtesy of YouTube:

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I really want to read the collected Joe! So much on my list. Thanks for posting about it!