Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Shelby Foote

Acquaintance of Faulkner and friend of Walker Percy…Foote gained national prominence as a guest commentator in Ken Burns’ Civil War series. I loved the series but mostly, I loved Shelby Foote and his Southern accent. He was a modern man deeply steeped in another century…a man transparent in his views about the tragedy of the Civil War and the galvanizing subject of race.
I don’t have an elegant Southern accent...few people do anymore and to me there’s no middle ground…Southern accent-wise. It’s either elegant or off putting and please; rarely do actors do Southern accents very well. Here’s Foote sharing stories about his friend Faulkner.
Shelby Foote passed away in 2005 but only this past weekend did his estate sale manifest. Memphis88 sent me a link to the sale and I reveled in seeing Foote’s random assemblage of collectibles…so much so that I decided to share some of it with you. Oh, and Foote wrote all of his book drafts in longhand...in hardbound journals...with a dip-pen. Beautiful.
 I’m sure I’d have reveled in sitting with Foote and just hearing any damn thing he’d want to talk about. And his collections just add to my intrigue with him.
 Here's a visit with Foote that you might enjoy...

Onward. In Philly.
ADG II

18 comments:

Atticus C. said...

Shelby Foote has always been one of my favorite writers. He was able to really humanize the Civil War, an event that defied our modern logic. What made him so unique in my opinion was his ability to translate his thoughts so well in both writing and through speaking. That is a talent I do not really possess. Thank you for posting this. These pictures and collections give even more depth to his already wonderfully interesting character.

Marla said...

I too loved him in the civil war...we scoured used books stores for his civil War anthology! He was an amazing story teller. The only Burns featured historian I may like better is Dayton Duncan in "Lewis & Clark"...he became so emotional over Lewis's death...made it so personal!

Anonymous said...

ADG, if you haven't already, you might enjoy looking at Leanne Shapton's (faux) auction- catalogue-as-graphic novel: Important Artifacts and personal property from the collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris ( or some such). You will delight in constructing a record of a life together from the images and descriptions- or at least I suspect you may...

Who new Mr Foote was such a gun fancier?

Anonymous in Tampa said...

I went to school with Shelby's son, Huggie, at Memphis University School, a boys school in Memphis, in the mid to late '70's, before the Ken Burns series, but well after Shelby's fame as author of "The Civil War", which I read cover to cover as a teenager. He came to speak to us at least 2 times that I recall.....he was quite the character and quite the story teller, with an encyclopedic knowledge of the war and his accent and gentility were amazing and wonderful.

P.S. Great Blog...I have been lurking here for the last couple of months after Googling "the Chinese Disco," which I was trying to explain the location of in Georgetown to my 14 year old son, and running across your post on that. Keep up the great work.

Britt Sudduth said...

I sure enjoy your introductions to authors and subject matter I'm not familiar with. Keep up the good work!

Britt

ilovelimegreen said...

What an eclectic and varied accumulation of possessions - now presumably dispersed. I know all too well how estate sales are staged - I'd be more curious to see how the house was before it was staged in preparation for the estate sale.

Preppy 101 said...

I love his voice, syntax, and accent, too. And it would be a treat to know the "why" behind what he collected. The few things I have all hold a special meaning or motivation in the collecting. I really enjoyed these videos. Thanks ADG. xoxo

The Devoted Classicist said...

I attended the estate sale, waiting an hour in a cool drizzle to gain entry, but many had waited up to six hours in a downpour to be among the first. There were many items brought in for the sale that had no Foote connection, those butterflies for example. I wanted to see the house, an absolutely charming and picturesque, rambling brick cottage in the Olde English style on three levels, mostly from the 1920s, with a later addition in keeping with the original house. It needs some work, but it is at the edge of a desirable neighborhood; the asking price is $420,000.

JKG said...

Thanks for the point to the CNN files. After listening to Foote, I went through Cronkite and then Dean Brown on Pyle and Plimpton on Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Plimpton's interview was sad -- the kid doing the questioning had all the rhythm of an average attorney doing a dry deposition. I want to like George because of his unabashed elitism, not in spite of it. But in this interview he come off sounding far too impressed with George. Snuggling up to Papa seems to fall into the same category as hanging around the Lions or getting in the ring with the champ, when it's really just hero worship.

Not all interviewees were as compelling as Foote, but then not all tackled anything so delicate as an attempt to explain the benefits of Jim Crow to both blacks and whites, while simultaneously conceding that it was all horribly, horribly wrong -- but only in retrospect. I don't know him from the Burns series but read about 2/3 of his Civil War trilogy and one or two others. It seems you would be hard-pressed to find a black person who would say there were good aspects of the race-divided South, as the inverse of Foote's apologia is, "Well, they thought we were animals but that meant they were nice to us most of the time. So it wasn't all bad."

But as Foote would say, in fiction there is truth, but not always fact. He is appropriately complex, and the world misses him -- and many men of that era. We have great need for slow circumspection, even for its own sake and whatever its conclusions.

ADG said...

Thanks everyone....glad that you enjoyed Foote. Anon...indeed I'll check out the faux catalog...you know how I'm wired obviously.

JKG...I do the same thing. End up at one site and then hotlink over to another place and BAM...three hours have gone by.

Anonymous said...

Since I started reading Walker Percy's books when a college friend introduced me to them--I have been under the spell of his writing and, thus, Shelby Foote's writing as well. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to sit down with both men and conversed about this and that.

My husband and I named our daughter after Shelby Foote so she has been familiar with who he was since she started talking. Ken Burns and I attended the same college, and although I have met him since, and we have mutual friends--he graduated just before I started. It would have been nice to have been able ask him for an introduction to Shelby Foote.

There is a very interesting book which is edited by Jay Tolson entitled The Correspondence of Shelby Foote & Walker Percy. The book is a compilation of their letters/notes to one another up until 1989.

Officer & Southern Gent said...

Loved Mr Foote's writings, intellect and his wonderful way of speaking. What a treat it would have been to sit down with him and here him recount history, or walk around and here the background on why he collected what. A fascinating collection of artifacts, reflecting a fascinating mind.

Jen said...

Fun to find and to catch up on your ramblings, Endeavor Man. The moment from that series that dwells in me is this letter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3F5RT0_K5M. Soft smiles to you and Miss L - J

ADG said...

Jen...great to be tagged Endeavor Man...and thanks for the soft smiles. Now come over and sit in my lap.

Summer is a Verb said...

Hola! Just swinging by to sneak a peek that the Butt Policia are still preoccupied in OTA and that the Tsunami didn't attract any undo attention to our locale. So far, all's been quiet on the South of the Border caliper front...XXOO

CeceliaMc said...

"I don’t have an elegant Southern accent...few people do anymore and to me there’s no middle ground…Southern accent-wise. It’s either elegant or off putting"

That's a damn shame.

ADG said...

AllieVonTanLines...I done tole you....the Butt Police are using unmanned drones with arial/remote digital calipers. We could already have a reading on you a_s. Literally.

CeceMc...indeed. One bofe counts.

Summer is a Verb said...

Gearing up for a 7 miler on the treadmill as we speak Officer. Can't risk running out of doors cuz the local oozi toting Butt Policia ride around in the back of Toyato pickups in packs and their idea of weight loss is relieving you of your head. NOT my problem area...XXOO

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