Joe Brainard’s I Remember is an understated tour-de-force: a book of seemingly disconnected sentences that all begin with the words “I remember,” the subtle narrative is poignant without being sentimental, brimming with charm yet never cloying, and manages to tell the roundabout story of Brainerd’s life from his birth in 1941 to the publication of the book in 1970. The book is also somehow a memoir of post-war America up to that time.
Although most known for the singular I remember, Brainard was also an artist of some repute, his pieces often combining collage and drawing. He was part of a circle in the 1960s and 1970s that included Frank O’Hara, Larry Rivers and John Ashbery, among others. MOMA, the Met and the Whitney all own works by Brainerd. By the mid 1980s, however, he had almost entirely stopped producing art.
Brainard died in 1994 of Aids-induced pneumonia at the age of 53.