I Remember

Hi. I’m sorry I haven’t posted for a while. I was moving, traveling, and generally shifting my life for a month and didn’t have Internet for most of that time. Starting now, I should be back on track!

I Remember by Joe Brainard

publication date: 1975
pages: 144
ISBN: 014024521

In this slim book, Joe Brainard blurs the lines between poetry and memoir. I Remember is composed of disparate statements all starting with the phrase “I remember . . .” These rememberings encompass all of Brainard’s life up to that point, from his young childhood in the 1940s and 50s to living on the East Coast in his thirties. Brainard uses this format to connect with the reader by revealing universal, yet individual, truths.

Some of the passages were very effective. Here are a few:

I remember rubbing my hand under a restaurant table top and feeling all the gum.

I remember when a Negro man asked me to paint a big Christmas picture to hang in his picture window at Christmas and I painted a white madonna and child.

I remember a little boy down the street. Sometimes I would hide one of his toys inside my underwear and make him reach for it.

I remember taking an I.Q. Test and coming out below average. (I’ve never told anybody that before)

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

He also included several passages about his sexual past and present, including late night fumblings with young women and men. These passages imbued the book with an aura of vulnerability.

Overall, however, I found the book to be dull. There’s only so many times I can read about something banal but universal, like cinnamon toothpicks or movie theaters. It’s possible the book would have been more satisfying if I read it randomly and in short bursts, instead of reading it all the way through like I did. Also, for how relatable the book could be, I didn’t think it was very insightful. Maybe it was because some of Brainard’s statements were just so ordinary that they couldn’t be extrapolated to other lives or experiences. I’m not quite sure.

This book wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have some special interest in it. Like if you are a poetry buff or are going through some of the experiences Brainard did, such as coming out.

3/6: more good than bad

Some other reviews of this book:

she is too fond of books
The Guardian

2 comments on “I Remember

  1. Robin says:

    sounds like a terrible book…

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