Nancy with the Laughing Face



Lauren Williams, Amanda Gersten, Olivia Kan-Sperling, and Lauren Kane, members of the Review’s editorial staff, on the office fire escape. Photos: Elias Altman

The writer and artist Joe Brainard, who once put together an exhibition of 1,500 tiny collages, knew the importance of the little things in life: seashells, matches, expensive sweaters that are, as he put it in “The Outer Banks,” a poem first published in the Review in 1981, “the kind of plain you pay for.” His relationship with the magazine began in 1966, when he and his partner, the New York School poet and editor Kenward Elmslie, coauthored the comic “The Power Plant Sestina,” published in issue no. 38. Brainard’s contributions to the Review also include the cover art, “Pansy,” for issue no. 61 (Spring 1975) and the portfolio “Amazing But True,” in issue no. 53. In one of our most beloved house ads, he dressed Ernie Bushmiller’s comics character Nancy—who graced more than a hundred of Brainard’s works between 1963 and 1978—in a Paris Review tee. 

Joe Brainard’s ad for issue no. 54, Summer 1972. Nancy © Andrews McMeel Syndication for UFS. Used by permission.

To celebrate Brainard and the Review’s new design, which draws from the issues of the seventies, we are offering Nancy tees and sweatshirts, and several other items besides. Brainard, who died at the age of fifty-two in 1994, always felt strongly about clothes. Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he hoped to become a fashion designer—a local newspaper proclaimed him a “budding Dior” (and quoted his mother, Marie, as saying: “Joe thinks it’s terribly unfashionable when I wear anything other than spiked heels”). We hope he would deem our Nancy clothing, in the very best sense, the kind of plain you pay for.


You can preorder our new merch here!