Jack’s show for Christmas Day deals with a song written in the year of Jack’s birth: 1940. The song is called “White Christmas,” and it was composed by a man whose given name was Israel Isidore Ballin–Irving Berlin. How was it that a Russian Jewish immigrant came to write one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time? Does Christ have anything to do with “White Christmas”?

Today’s show is the second in a series of shows presenting excerpts from Jack’s book, Visions & Affiliations: California Poetry from 1940 to 2005. In Jack Foley’s Unmanageable Masterpiece (Monongahela Books, 2019), Dana Gioia and Peter Whitfield write: “In 2011 a tiny press in Berkeley published Visions & Affiliations, an eccentric 1300-page chronology of post-war California literature in two massive paperbound folio volumes. With no commercial distribution or publicity, the book sold about two hundred copies and soon vanished from sight—but not from the memory of the small audience that read it. Some of them considered the elaborate time-line the first adequate account of California’s complex and contradictory literary life. Others recognized Foley’s radical innovation in changing how literary history could be written. A few even considered these strange and sprawling yet compulsively readable tomes an oddball masterpiece.”

Cover to Cover with Jack Foley

Cover to Cover with Jack Foley – August 28, 2019

Today’s show deals with Jack Foley’s Unmanageable Masterpiece, a new book published by Monongahela Books and edited by Dana Gioia and Peter Whitfield. The book deals with a book Jack published with Pantograph Press in 2011: Visions & Affiliations: California Poetry from 1940 to 2005. Gioia writes: Jack Foley has been such an active figure in California letters over the past forty years that it would seem impossible to make sense of West Coast poetry without reference to him. Yet most critics do exactly that. Foley has published on the margins of official literary life. Conventional critics don’t know his work. Time will correct the oversight, but there is no harm in speeding up the process by offering a few observations on his prolific career. There are singular aspects of his work that deserve attention, especially his experimental poetry written for and performed by multiple voices. But poetic innovation is what one expects from a Bay Area Beat. What astonishes the reader is Foley’s critical prose. No one expects a Beat poet to write a major work of literary history or to develop a radically new and revelatory approach to the genre.