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Joe Brainard: I Remember

4.28  ·  Rating Details ·  1,216 Ratings  ·  121 Reviews
Joe Brainard's I Remember is a literary and artistic cult classic, praised and admired by writers from Paul Auster to John Ashery and Edmund White. As autobiography, Brainard's method was brilliantly simple: to set down specific memories as they rose to the surface of his consciousness, each prefaced by the refrain "I remember": "I remember when I thought that if you did a ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published February 2nd 2001 by Granary Books (first published 1975)
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Jul 07, 2008 Tosh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had an early edition of this book and I imagine this one is the same. Maybe not? Nevertheless it's a classic and it seems to be a writer's favorite. in many ways it reminds me of Raymond Queneau's Writing in Style. It is probably one of the great writing manuals as well as a work of poetry. Prose work to the max. Whatever you call it, this work is a masterpiece.
Abimelech Abimelech
There is an audio out there which I am unsure still exists of Brainard reading say thirty minutes of I Remember. I had a dream last night of a friend showing it to me recently, and loving not just the reading but the concept. Found a copy in the library today after a psychedelic case of deja-vu, and boy, over a nice lunch of double-espresso and another mention from a co-worker (Mind you, a professor in Astrophysics) brought up the girl who dances with teddy bears and occupies the American mind m ...more
Dec 20, 2012 Sam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brief memorial to St. Joe, New York School painter and collector of autobiographical marginalia. This collection of short, randomly associated thoughts which all begin with "I remember..." is a breezy book which nonetheless rewards close attention. Seemingly banal observations "I remember butter and sugar sandwiches" rub elbows with sexual awakenings (a particularly lurid episode involving a film room in the Met) and moments of vivid, intense pain (the way rock music can sound so free and loos ...more
thanks to David E and others on goodreads, I too am now a fan of Joe Brainard and his wonderful 1975 memoir, recently reissued by Granary Books.

Yes, it's as good as they told me it would be. It carries a cumulative emotional power.

Brainard had this wonderful combination of acute observation, innocence, humor. His memories are both intensely personal and nearly universal.

Some random passages:

I remember an algebra teacher who very generously passed me. His name was Mr Byrd. I think he truly under
Ben Loory
Jun 20, 2012 Ben Loory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
pretty much perfect. i don't know why i'm only giving it 4 stars. i guess because i wish it was about 10,000 pages longer.
Nov 13, 2007 Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book when I first read it over thirty years ago (the edition with the yellowy-orange French-looking cover, published by Full Court Press). I loved it for the glamour of all the references to American brands and customs, which made it seem both real and other-worldly. I loved the complete unavailability of some of the memories and the way others were not only available but shared. And I loved the sexiness of it, and the way it reminded me of sexy moments (and people) I'd forgotten, e ...more
Dec 07, 2011 Patty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joe remembered cinnamon toothpicks, twice!
Mar 15, 2009 Brian rated it it was amazing
On its face I Remember is nothing more than a seemingly endless series of brief declarative statements starting with the simple words of the title. But it becomes something much more than that. Brainard is so forthright, so perceptive, so directly simple and his memories so real, so particular that, as one reviewer put it, "his history coincides with ours."

There is no narrative in the sense of beginning-middle-end but the memories pile on top of each other such that you know Brainard and his st
Guillermo Jiménez
Cuando tenía menos de 25 años, repasaba mentalmente lo que creía era mi recuerdo más antiguo. Era el regreso de mis padres y mi hermana mayor a la casa donde vivíamos en Torreón. Papá había viajado a Los Ángeles, y mamá lo alcanzó con mi hermana allá, de vacaciones.

Recordaba ese recuerdo y lo guardaba celosamente. No se lo platicaba a nadie, hasta que un una buena peda, decidí sacarlo a la luz. Una peda de aquellas cuando papá aún podía beber en serio.

El caso es que, platicando del descubrimient
John Wiswell
Sep 19, 2007 John Wiswell rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Prose poetry readers, innovative fiction readers, fans of Joe Brainard
I am uncertain if this is the same edition as the one I own. Mine has a living room on the cover.

However, the book I read could be a new genre: list memoir. Brainard recalls seemingly random moments and aspects of his life in small bites, many as small as a sentence. There's little sense of cohesion on any page (or block of ten pages), making it feel extremely vulnerable. Unfortunately, it feels more lazy than innovative, as Brainard couldn't be troubled to shape his recollections cogently or in
Wendy Trevino
Oct 25, 2009 Wendy Trevino rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poets
Oh yeah--great little book. Open to any page and you're guaranteed something fun, charming, colorful.


I remember The Millionaire on TV and how you never got to see his face.

I remember "Two hairs past a freckle" when someone asks you what time it is and you don't have a watch.

I remember when I was very young a hand-wringer washing machine in our basement and visions of what it could do to your hand if it got caught in it.

I remember pink underwear sometimes when something red faded in the wash
Oct 08, 2008 Ted rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliantly simple, and adaptable as an exercise for one's own writing or workshops at any level. Smart in its resistance to order, how it insists on remaining strange and wondrous and haphazard. A great book. I hope one day when we colonize space that I can take this to the Moon with me.
Matt Briggs
Jun 09, 2011 Matt Briggs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember reading this book and thinking what a brilliant gimmick and then trying to copy it and finding it is not as easy as that.
Nov 30, 2015 Abby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I Remember is a memoir of sorts. It is a list of memories that Joe Brainard has collected from throughout his life, in no particular order, about anything and everything. It is incredibly interesting. Some memories made me see back in time to the reality of vanished decades. Some memories felt like they had been pulled straight from the back of my own mind. Some memories were TMI.
The wonderful thing about this book is its ability to stimulate the reader's mind to memory. You read his memories,
Sep 07, 2015 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joe Brainard's I Remember reads like an inventory of memories (or, the tip of the iceberg that is the author's inventory of his memories). The entries range in length, from one sentence to one half-page paragraph...
I remember pink lemonade. (pg. 24)

I remember a story my mother telling of an old lady who had a china cabinet filled with beautiful antique china and stuff. One say a tornado came and knocked the cabinet over and to the floor but nothing in it got broken. Many years later she died and
Jan 29, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is either intimidating or annoying. I Remember is meant to be read in one sitting. I made the mistake of taking a break because my grandmother made me breakfast. As I started peeling an orange, every action I was doing in the present became an "I remember" statement in my head-- for at least a half-hour. Everything I looked at became, I remember, as if it had already happened-- because my brain had been trained to repeat and expect that statement at the beginning of a sentence.

I Rememb
Mar 19, 2014 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If anyone is familiar with Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire", this is very similar. Joe Brainard puts together a wide compilation of personal, social, cultural, and economic memories across the span of over 100 pages. Despite the fact that I was born in 1986 and cannot relate to everything in the book, this does not stop it from being amazing. It gives a representation of not only higher order memory, but also, perhaps more importantly, humanity.

This book, though not widely known, has been
Jun 05, 2013 Troy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013, poetry
This review pretty much sums up the book for me. The magic in this work is in its ability to bounce between the mundane/trivial corporeal AND the heartrending massive events that change the structure of who-we-are. And that's part of the point. Some stupid TV show is as much a make-up of our being as our first sexual encounter. ... Well, maybe not as important, but something that makes us who we are.

And reading this explodes a kaleidoscope of remembrances from my own past, often things I don't
Michael Armijo
Nov 02, 2010 Michael Armijo rated it liked it
This IS a great handbook for anyone with 'Writer's Block'.

I saw this book recommended by one of my favorite authors, Michael Cunningham (he wrote THE HOURS). Michael teaches a Creative Writing course at Columbia University and I'm sure he implores his students to read this one. It is an easy, simple read of "I REMEMBER..." lines of memories from the 1940s and 1950s. It is a 'must read' for any writer who has writers block as it will spur new ideas into one's head, encouraging one to write their
Aug 25, 2007 Rodney rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
All the warmth, humor and good-natured silliness of Brainard's art are here in these "poems"--1-3 sentence reminiscences that meander from his Tulsa childhood to sexual experiences in New York in the mid '60s. Brainard records impressions like a camera, not trying to sort them or make them mean, or bothering much to distinguish "high" from "low." In the process, he mananges to describe an America of a certain time and place more vividly than longer, more macho efforts to tackle 'The American Exp ...more
Lola White
May 17, 2012 Lola White rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: down-memory-lane
I think this book you either love or hade it, there is no in between. If you love its because you can relate to what his experiences were or maybe you find it funny that something like that could happened.
The era in which it was written does not prevent you to be able to make a connetion, now a days, with the author because behind all the names of the brands and the people that the author uses, there is just a general way in which everyone approaches differents situations, more likely in your c
Octavio Villalpando
Dec 31, 2013 Octavio Villalpando rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Todos!
Recommended to Octavio by: Edith Wasco
¡Vaya! La crítica coincide en afirmar que la maravillosa simpleza de este libro hace que sea incomprensible que no se le hubiera ocurrido antes a nadie. Y también dicen que es una joya...

...tienen razón. Nunca antes una serie de enunciados tan simples, formaron un contenido tan rico e matices y tan hipnótico a la vez como este "Me acuerdo", algún día diremos: me acuerdo de haber leído un libro llamado "me acuerdo", Me acuerdo que me gustó muchísimo. Y me acuerdo que me hizo preguntarme donde dia
Feb 27, 2015 Victor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in a single sitting. The only other time I remember doing that was with The Neon Bible (needless to say, I Remember is loads better).

If you've read this far, I probably don't need to tell you the format of this book, but just in case: A memoir in the most literal sense, I Remember is a collection of several hundred of Joe Brainard's memories of his childhood in Tulsa during the 40's and 50's and young adult life in New York in the 60's and 70's, each starting with "I remember...
Chance Lee
Aug 04, 2014 Chance Lee rated it it was amazing
I Remember is a small book, 167 pages of statements all beginning with "I remember." Joe Brainard was born in 1941. He was a painter and artist, and this little book is an art piece itself. His memories are an assortment of pop culture ("I remember 'Love Me Tender,'" "I remember the Liz-Eddit-Debbie scandal") to food ("I remember 'Payday' candy bars and eating the peanuts off first then eating the center part," "I remember 'Spam.'") and sexuality ("I remember getting erections in school and the ...more
Mar 08, 2015 Brian rated it it was amazing
Simple, elegant, charming, flawless.
John Vanderslice
May 15, 2016 John Vanderslice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a classic, and extremely uncoventional, autobiography by the artist Joe Brainard, friend to so many who were active in the New York literary and art worlds of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. (Frank O'Hara, Ted Berrigan, Ron Padgett . . . ) What's most fascinating, and famous, about the book is its use of simple "I Remember" statements all the way through. Some are very short, some are a few paragraphs long, and mostly they are distinct from one another. The book bounces around as Brainard's mind ...more
Andrew S.
Dec 16, 2015 Andrew S. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This would seem to be essential. Really a book length poem but also a non-linear biography. I just bought my edition at Kubrick's in Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon. It is a fancy hard cover re-edition published by British publisher: Notting Hill.

Amazingly, I first found this book (in a different edition) in the Shatin (Kowloon) Public Library a few years ago. Sorry to say, but at 50 something years of age it was the first time I had come across the book. But I desired my own copy after first reading it, b
Nov 15, 2007 Phoebe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: povels
I wonder at my total absorption and obsessive reading response to this sort of form, which I'm calling my "povel" shelf, creds to Geraldine Kim, whose book is called *Povel*. I think it has something to do with the attractiveness of individual subjective narrative "voice" without the imposition of linear or cause-and-effect narrative form. Not a story but more like a picture. And the poemy form-fronted thing.
La Stamberga dei Lettori
Inizio la recensione con un verso preso da una canzone di Fabrizio De André, Amico Fragile:

Valeva la pena divertirvi le serate estive con un semplicissimo "Mi ricordo".

Il perché della citazione è presto detto: oltre all'ovvio collegamento con il titolo di Joe Brainard c'è anche il fatto che tutta l'opera si basa su corti paragrafi – due o tre righe di media – che cominciano tutti, per l'appunto, con “Mi ricordo”.
In effetti lo spunto, proprio come dice De André, è semplicissimo, e ancorché più ch
This is the kind of artsy, English major book that I think just about everybody would enjoy. My grandparents might have enjoyed it more than I did in some respects, because there was more than one cultural reference from the '50s that went flying over my head. But as many have said before me, this book is rather brilliant and endlessly entertaining.
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La Stamberga dei ...: Mi ricordo di Joe Brainard 1 4 Sep 15, 2014 03:18AM  
  • My Life
  • The Sonnets
  • Midwinter Day
  • "A"
  • Fuck You-Aloha-I Love You
  • Veil: New and Selected Poems
  • The Weather
  • Collected Poems of George Oppen
  • Sleeping With the Dictionary
  • Frank O'Hara: Poet Among Painters
  • The Collected Poems, 1945-1975
  • Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2005
  • Collected Works
  • The Book of Frank
  • Stanzas in Meditation
  • Girls on the Run

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“I remember finding myself in situations I all of a sudden feel (remember) I've been in before: a "repeat" life flash.

I remember those times of not knowing if you feel really happy or really sad. (Wet eyes and a high heart.)

I remember, in crowds--total isolation!

I remember, at parties--naked!

I remember body realizations about how fragile we (life) really are (is).

I remember trying to figure things out--(life)--trying to get it all down to something basic--and ending up with nothing. Except a dizzy head.”
“I remember when "atheist" was a scary word.

I remember little suits, on little boys, with no lapels.

I remember dining room table leaves.

I remember a brief period of "bad breath" concern: the product of a health class at school.

I remember that "most bad breath is caused by germs."

I remember that germs are everywhere!

I remember trying to visualize germs (physically) as they crawl around all over everything.

I remember that my vision of germs pretty much resembled normal insects, only much smaller, of course.

I remember sneezing into my hand, out in public, and then the problem of what to "do" with it.”
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