Jon Berry


The last time I saw the Wizard of Oakland he was fresh in from New York City where he’d been doing readings and writing yet another volume of classic literature, his Oz Journal. We were at a Thai restaurant in Berkeley. I introduced Jack to Wendy, the woman who’d agreed to marry me. She and Jack fell into a discussion of honesty that carried us through the evening. Neeli Cherkovski was there adding more literary depth to the evening. Two producers of documentaries were sifting their way through the beat magic of Jack and Neeli and the numerous plates of delicious Thai food that were compliments of Jack and Adelle. Discussions of literature and documentaries were tossed into the honesty discussion that had escalated into a full blown argument. One that held Jack and Wendy smiling through snarls, delighting in the intellect they were engaging. Laughter and beauty in a variety of forms whirled around the table that evening two years ago and left Jack dancing on the streets of Berkeley. Guaranteed he’s still there dancing today, spouting Yeats, and arguing about honesty and the truth of lies with anyone that passes by.

               —Jon Berry


[“People tend to believe in ‘honesty’ as an absolute: it’s always a good thing. And people get praised for their ‘honesty’—not necessarily for any particular kind of honesty, simply for being ‘honest.’ But, if there are no absolutes, it’s possible that the virtue of honesty has its limitations, even its negations—especially when it becomes anti-mythology. I’m afraid I have a deep distrust of things Puritan—not to mention things everybody praises. In at least some senses, ‘honesty’ is anti imagination: Tell the truth, be honest, don’t lie. To praise ‘honesty’ is to praise not making fictions. Is that what we wish to tell our poets? Is that any way to arrive at new myths? Isn’t ‘honesty’ an aspect of the Puritan distrust of the imagination—the impulse that made them close down the theaters in Shakespeare’s time?”

               —Jack Foley, from “Seven Passages from a Notebook Plus a
                   Poem,” The Dancer & the Dance: A Book of Distinctions.]