Shelby Foote: A Writers Life

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There are letters from Foote to Percy now in the University of North Carolina library a selection of their correspondence, edited by Jay Tolson, was published in It was in the Percy household that Foote first encountered modern literature, becoming a passionate reader of Proust, Faulkner and Joyce. He remarked in the second volume of his history of the civil war that "Proust, I believe, has taught me more about the organisation of material than even Gibbon has done, and Gibbon taught me much.

Foote matriculated at the University of North Carolina in , but thought his courses boring and dropped out after his second year. Returning to Greenville, he wrote for a local newspaper, and began writing a novel, Tournament, about a delta planter who gambled away his fortune.

Shelby Foote

It was a portrait of his grandfather. Joining the Mississippi national guard, he served as an artillery instructor. Promoted to the rank of captain, he spent several years in Northern Ireland awaiting a wartime combat role which never came. One story has it that Foote defended a soldier against a superior officer, leading to his court martial and dishonourable dismissal from the army.

An alternative account, in which Captain Foote went absent without leave to spend time with an Irish girl Tess Lavery whom he later married , also ends in a dishonourable discharge. He was allowed to enlist in the US marines in , but saw no action. He published five novels between and The most interesting of these was Shiloh , telling the story of the battle through the voices of southern and northern participants.

Then came the civil war volumes, published in , and respectively. Nearly 3, pages long, they were an extraordinary achievement for an untrained, but passionate, novelist historian. Foote claimed to have read everything, and walked the battlefields, to help his readers feel the experience of the war. He told the stories of men in battle in rich, perhaps over-rich, detail, and in a lush style. Then came the civil war volumes, published in , and respectively.

Nearly 3, pages long, they were an extraordinary achievement for an untrained, but passionate, novelist historian. Foote claimed to have read everything, and walked the battlefields, to help his readers feel the experience of the war.


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He told the stories of men in battle in rich, perhaps over-rich, detail, and in a lush style. Academic historians, preferring an analytic approach to their subject, were sniffy about an amateur whose idea of history was rooted in vivid stories, but Foote reminded his readers that a novelist's eye, and a feel for narrative, could bring history alive.

Shelby Foote : a writer's life (Book, ) [smaragclocrentpror.ml]

His first volume begins with Jefferson Davis, soon to be president of the Confederacy, in the US senate in , expressing his "final adieu" to his old colleagues, and to the Union itself. The third volume ends with Davis's death in , and his final comment made to a visiting journalist on his motivation: "Tell the world that I only loved America.

There has, perhaps, never been a history, even a popular history, so devoid of ideas, or economic forces.

Few historians today share Foote's blindness toward the considerable role of blacks in the war. He scorns northern extremists, blames the abolitionists for provoking the war, and has a fondness for the murderous cavalry exploits of Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose granddaughter he met as a boy, and who permitted him to swing Forrest's sabre above his head. He did not mention that the notoriously racist Confederate general became one of the founding fathers of the Ku Klux Klan.

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Foote did not hesitate to affirm that he would have fought for the south; when he used the term "southerner" he meant "white southerner". But he will be remembered with affection because he showed Americans why the civil war mattered, and matters still - and not just to southerners.

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The American writer Shelby Foote, who has died aged 88, found that late-arriving celebrity was deeply annoying. As a novelist, he had a regional reputation as a southern writer. His three-volume narrative history of the American civil war, published between and , was an achievement on a larger scale, and, catching the wave of public interest that accompanied the centennial of the conflict in , Foote enjoyed a brief period of acclaim.

But the bitter end of the Vietnam war saw his books drift out of print, and he seemed to have settled into a gentlemanly obscurity. In , after Foote had published five novels all set in the South , Random House president Bennett Cerf asked whether he would write a short history of the war. I thought it would take me about three years, but it took me Foote read countless books on the war and visited every major battle site—on its anniversary date, to get the weather right.

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C. Stuart Chapman: Shelby Foote: A Writer's Life

The project enthralled him. September September was bought by Cybill Shepherd and will begin shooting this month in Memphis. Foote says his first two marriages one of which produced daughter Margaret, 41 foundered on his early frustrations as a writer. He married Gwyn, the mother of his son, Huger, 28, while he was working on the first volume of The Civil War. It amuses him that he is being recognized at this late date. If you have opted in for our browser push notifications, and you would like to opt-out, please refer to the following instructions depending on your device and browser.

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