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JR Foley » Intros

Some observations about the writings showcased on

  • “The Short Happy Life of Lee Harvey Oswald” tells the tale of the JFK assassination not as an event in American history but as an event in American imagination. Oswald does it alone, he does it with others, he doesn’t do it at all. It is actually at least two stories, or a main story and an anti-story, the anti-story running in the footnotes/endnotes against the current of the dominant story. The first time I read the two biographies of Lee Harvey Oswald in The Warren Report I was struck by how much the writing sounded like one of Ernest Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories. It also turned out that the only major American writer Oswald ever said two words about — quoted in the epigraphs to “Short Happy Life” — was Ernest Hemingway. (The relation of Hemingway to Oswald — that is, the Warren Commission/U.S. House of Representatives Assassinations Committee Lee Harvey Oswald — is further expatiated upon, together with a review of Norman Mailer’s Oswald’s Tale, in “Lee Harvey Oswald: Deep Classic American Hero”.) When after many failed attempts to get at the story of Oswald I finally let both my own impression of the Warren Report biographies and Oswald’s own words sink in, the story all but wrote itself. It’s Hemingway parodying the Warren Report, retelling the biographies as though, in fact, just three years after his own suicide, he had written them.
  • “night patrol”: the night journey to Vietnam of one who hell no, does not go.

    Victory Garden Boys: Growing Up in a Suburb of the Cold War, a narrative in linked essays, combines bird’s-eye (historical, political, economic, based on extensive research, including interviews) with one worm’s-eye view (my own growing up) on growing up during the Cold War 1950’s in “the greenest plateau which the American middle class had yet cultivated as a home and a school for its children” – a garden which was also a bull’s eye of any atomic attack on America. Analytical as well as narrative, it focuses on one suburb of Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, Maryland, which in different ways – thanks in part to the initiative of local politicians and businessmen – was itself a product of the U.S. Government. By 1960 Montgomery became the wealthiest county per median family income in America: “the greenest plateau ….” The bird’s-eye and worm’s-eye views join chiefly in the career of one of those local politicians, my father, who by the end of the 1950’s was elected as the County’s Representative to the U.S. Congress. This is what I tell agents: this is the first book on War Babies and Baby Boomers to bring this double focus to our peculiar contribution to history.

  • “Prologue: Guns in the Field (time is, time was, time goes somewhere else)
  • Legends of the Victory Garden (an excerpt featuring Sam Eig and Col. E. Brooke Lee)
  • “Did 13th Century St. Thomas Aquinas Make Straight the Path to 20th Century Atheism?” (excerpted from “Holy Redeemer,” a consideration of how the underpinnings of the notorious Baltimore Catechism #2 may trace a surprisingly straight line from the master theologian of the Catholic Church to the atheism of Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre)
  • “Running for Office in the Victory Garden” (an interlude, not uncomic, in which the erstwhile anti-E. Brooke Lee Machine John R. Foley explains to wife and brother why … he joined the Machine)
  • “Our Friend the Atom: Walt Disney and the Atomic Bomb” (a rich Uncle Scrooge adventure, richly illustrated)


  • Lost in Mudlin: a first encounter with the city of L. Bloom and Stephen D.: which says it all.
  • “A Visit to SzoborPark”, in the suburban hills south of Buda, is not to be missed by any traveler to Budapest with the least curiosity about 20th Century Hungary. After “the political change,” as our urbane tour guide called it, all the Soviet-era public statuary was removed from the city, then retrieved and preserved in this strange, pretty garden-park. Especially to be beheld is the Bela Kun Memorial, a metal and concrete assemblage by Hungary’s leading sculptor Imre Varga, which in my opinion is not only a first rate work of art but the most fascinating public memorial I have ever seen.

4 Responses to “Intros”

  • nicole says:

    kewl! 🙂

  • Carlo Parcelli says:


    Blog something. Ron Silliman has perfect blogospheroid attendance where as so far as I can see you and your ne’re do well friends just smoke and fume behind the gym..

    I wanna know if you had toast with them poached eggs. Where are you right now?
    What’s your favorite beverage that’s also the name of a famous playwright?

    And when and where is the read through of the ‘Augustine'(sic?) play? Is Ernie gonna be there? If so I’ll bring goggles. Carlo

  • jrf says:

    I know, Carlo! I’m doing this wrong. I’m sposed to answer your comment right there on the blog, as a metacomment to your comment. (So I’ll cheat and copy this in.)

    As for blogging daily or even weekly, I have to have something I want to say first. There’s so much I can say, but what do I want to say? I’ve already been speed-photoed by my website guru, Nicole V. Foley, for making my initial welcoming post too long! With apologies for the generational deterioration in attention-span, she tells me if I want to be read I have to be super-brief. My obstinate reply is I thought this is a blog, not a Twitter account. I ain’t no Twit. Even when I got nothin’ to say, I go on and on.

    But on lemme move. The reading of “Augustine the Cynic” will be Monday, April 18, in Silver Spring at the rehearsal space for Roundhouse Theater. That’s not the little theater next to the Silver Theater on Colesville, but a few blocks south in the hugh building cum parking garage. I’m not even sure yet if it’s to be a public reading or an in-class. I’ll let you know. I’ll say only at this time that this play is entirely new; it’s not the play you heard read 2 years ago at Twinbrook Rec Center. It’s the play that rebelled against that play. It’s a sequel/prequel that negates the ending of that play, in which Count Boniface pretty much forces Augustine to send his former wife off to Carthage in a grain ship. I decided I didn’t want to let Augustine off so easily. This play begins with Boniface countermanding the order and forbidding the grain ship to sail! So among other things Augustine is stuck with his wife there in Hippo — and the truth he’s reluctant to admit to himself is he’s tickled pink. They have more good scenes together, until the climax. But this Augustine is rapidly unraveling. Boniface’s quid pro quo for letting Augustine’s wife stay is he “demotes” Augustine from Acting Civil Governor of Hippo during the siege. More things happen, including Augustine’s forthright abdication of almost his entire authority as bishop to his designated successor, in whom he does not have high confidence. He retains the official title of bishop, but only, he “explains,” because the imprisoned Bishop Gildo, the heretic, is a responsibility Augustine does not want to lay on his successor’s shoulders. And there’s a lot more going on. But what it all comes to is that as Augustine cedes authority (read “power”) over the city and over his local church, he begins to lose the dominating control he has exercised for 40 years not only over the Hippo scene, but over himself. In this sense he begins to disintegrate rapidly. So that the Cynic side of him — the honest questioner side — challenges that old domination, challenges Augustine more and more to “ask the question” he does not want to face — and I’ll leave you in a little suspense about that. The Cynic pits honest wife Tal against Mother Monnica (40 years dead but vividly alive to Augustine as his orthodox “conscience”). And there’s more. Yes, Ernie will be there. Bring your goggles. Also a Groucho nose and glasses. (You’ve already got the beard.)

    Now isn’t this a nice bloggy comment-comment!

  • Joan says:

    I’ve just been over the website, Jack. Golly. I have read some of your servings in Flashpoint; but this tightens the web of thoughts and emotions in your writings. Can’t wait to dig in! Joan

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