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Joe Brainard: I Remember

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I Remember by the American writer and artist Joe Brainard is a gem of a novel. The concept is really quite simple: the novel consists entirely of a long list of short sentences that start with "I remember", but the effect is mesmerizing. The book not only lists the author's memories. Because of the reiterated "I remember", the novel also conjures up your own memories.

Every other page I was struck that I remembered thinking the same thought at some point in my life. But I was also overcome by my own memories of growing up in The Netherlands, of jumping across ditches, of cycling to school on icy streets and falling twice, of my first solitary train trip abroad with enough food in my backpack to last a week and two books just in case, of all the pets and friends and relatives that have died, of the joy and elation I felt on my first trips to New York, Hong Kong and Los Angeles, of being moved to tears on my first visit to the Prado, of imagining myself being locked up for three weeks without being able to contact the Dutch consulate when for no apparent reason I was pulled over by police late at night in the middle of nowhere in the Californian desert, of failing to realize that she actually must have really liked me, of bursting into tears when the car in front of me hit a cat and there was nothing I could do but to drive over it because there was too much traffic and any move would have jeopardized myself or other drivers, of having to leave a lecture because I had the giggles, of wondering what the fuck I was doing there and promising myself never to do that again and forgetting about it the moment it was over and so on.

The novel also works as a testament of a time and a place, since my memories and those of a person growing up in Nepal, Peru or 19th century Japan will be totally different.

Joe Brainard's I Remember also formed the inspiration for Je Me Souviens by Georges Perec. What if more writers from around the world would compile a similar volume? Wouldn't that be interesting?