The Nancy Book

Joe Brainard

Essays by Ann Lauterbach and Ron Padgett, collaborations with Bill Berkson, Ted Berrigan and more.

Brainard was a master of life’s microcomedies, the unheard laughter that courses through any truly alert consciousness. And Nancy, with that bow like a pulsating noodle in her frizzy hair, is as good a Descartes as any for our age.


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Every page of this book will make you smile or laugh—not with recognition but with startled joy. Joe Brainard took an unchanging icon of the American norm and inserted her into countless fashionable or scandalous context, subtly metamorphosing something that seemed eternal into absurdly contemporary forms. He is as funny as only a philosopher can be.

—Edmund White


From 1963 to 1978 Joe Brainard created more than one hundred works of art that appropriated the classic comic strip character Nancy and sent her into an astonishing variety of spaces, all electrified and complicated by the incongruity of her presence. The Nancy Book is the first collection of Brainard’s Nancy texts, drawings, collages and paintings, with full page reproductions of over fifty works, several of which have never been exhibited or published before.

In The Nancy Book, Joe Brainard’s Nancy traverses high art and low, the poetic and pornographic, the surreal and the absurd. Whether inserted into hypothetical situations, dispatched on erotic adventures, or seemingly rendered by the hands of artists as varied as Leonardo da Vinci, R. Crumb, Larry Rivers, and Willem de Kooning, Brainard’s Nancy revels in as well as transcends her two-dimensionality.

These works exude a beguiling balance of mischief and innocence, irreverence and wonder, spontaneity and calculation. Together they accumulate into a sophisticated and complex work of great wit and joy, rich with metaphor, and equal parts surprise and subtlety.

The Nancy Book also includes original essays by Ann Lauterbach and Ron Padgett as well as collaborations with luminary poets Bill Berkson, Ted Berrigan, Robert Creeley, Frank Lima, Frank O’Hara, Ron Padgett and James Schuyler. The book was edited by Ron Padgett and Lisa Pearson.


JOE BRAINARD (1942-1994) left Tulsa at eighteen for New York City and soon became a part of the thriving downtown art scene and the New York School of poets and painters. Over his career, Brainard created a prodigious body of work, distinguished by its breadth, originality, and rare alchemy of sensuality and precision, sophistication and sweetness. Admired for his writing as well as his visual art, Brainard wrote the legendary and beloved memoir I Remember, which was hailed as “a masterpiece” by Paul Auster and inspired George Perec’s Je me souviens. His writings were recently published in 2012 by the Library of America in The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard. His drawings, assemblages, collages, and paintings are in private and museum collections, including those of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of America Art, and a major travelling retrospective was organized by the Berkeley Art Museum in 2001 and included a stop at MOMA P.S 1.