Cover image for Joe : a memoir of Joe Brainard
Joe : a memoir of Joe Brainard
Padgett, Ron, 1942-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Minneapolis : Coffee House Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
xiv, 357 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3552.R275 Z84 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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"When someone we love dies, most of us do something to keep them from completely vanishing. We summon up memories of them, we talk about them, we visit their graves, we treasure photographs of them, we dream about them, and we cry, and for those brief moments they are in some way with us. But when my friend Joe Brainard died, I knew I was going to have to do something beyond all these."

So begins Ron Padgett's warm, conversational memoir--the unlikely and true story of two childhood friends, one straight and one gay, who grew up in 1950s Oklahoma, surprised their families by moving to New York City in search of art and poetry, and became a part of the dynamic community of artists and writers whose work continues to shape American culture.

Much of this intimate memoir is told in Joe's own direct and unforgettable voice. Dozens of letters, journal entries, poems, photographs, and artworks create a stirring portrait of the times--one that illuminates not only Joe Brainard's life and art, but the influence that his kindness and insight had on the lives of his contemporaries, including Alex Katz, Andy Warhol, Frank O' Hara, Joe LeSueur, Anne Waldman, John Ashbery, Kenward Elmslie, and countless other friends,lovers, and admirers.

As Ron Padgett generously shares his memories, he allows us all to get to know Joe Brainard, a truly great person who just happened to be a brilliant artist and poet. Above all, Joe is a gentle reminder that love, life, and art matter every second.

Poet Ron Padgett , the son of an Oklahoma bootlegger, grew up in Tulsa where he met Joe Brainard at the age of 6. His recent books include the memoir, Oklahoma Tough: My Father, King of the Tulsa Bootleggers and the collection of poems You Never Know .

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Joe Brainard (1942-94) was an American artist noted for the variety of his work in poster designs, drawings, paintings, assemblages, collages, and book covers. He was also known for I Remember, a classic of autobiographical musings. Poet and editor Padgett, who grew up with Brainard in Tulsa, OK, and maintained a friendship with him in New York City and Vermont, has written a detailed account of Brainard's life and work as seen from the perspective of a close friend and colleague. The short chapters read almost like diary entries, and indeed the chronological details can at times be repetitious. But they build up to a portrait of a respected artist and humble human being who, despite his fame, still harbored doubts about his work and talent. The memoir is crammed with verbal portraits of the many painters and writers of the New York City cultural scene from the 1960s on, but what stands out is Padgett's warm portrait of Brainard as a fine artist and caring human being. Recommended for larger academic libraries, especially those that specialize in late 20th-century American art and literature.-Morris Hounion, New York City Coll. of Technology Lib., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.