Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard

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9781566891592: Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard

“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.

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About the Author:

Ron Padgett grew up in Tulsa where he met Joe Brainard at the age of six. Padgett’s recent books include the memoir, Oklahoma Tough: My Father, King of the Tulsa Bootleggers and the collection of poems You Never Know.

From Publishers Weekly:

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.
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