Sunday, July 03, 2005

Frum on Foote

David Frum's Diary on National Review Online: "JUL. 2, 2005: THE ETERNAL THINGS
I have always believed that Shelby Foote was one of the very greatest of American historians, fully the equal of Francis Parkman, a country mile ahead of the vainglorious Henry Adams. In the national convulsions that will be triggered this week by the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and the revelation of the source of the Valerie Plame leak, can we pause just a moment to pay homage at the death of this great artist and chronicler? Foote was a Southerner and a Union man all at once, who honored the courage of the soldiers of the Confederacy while never conceding an inch to those who doubted that the right side won., usually the abode of the snide and petty, has a surprisingly sensitive appreciation of Foote's achievement. [See earlier post on this blog.]
A reader [of Frum] writes on Foote:
'In the spring of 1981 as a freshman at Auburn University I went to a luncheon lecture by Shelby Foote--a unviversity sponsored event. Thinking back I can't remember why I went. I'd never heard of Mr. Foote, had never read anything he'd written, and didn't know anyone who had. There were maybe fifteen people there. Most probably English grad students it occurs to me now. Shelby Foote enthralled me. He was a gentleman. He was well spoken. He was soft spoken. He described how his novel Shiloh started out a short story about a young Mississippi boy's first occasion uttering a rebel yell. Mr. Foote said something like, 'He'd charged the hill and yelled his yell, but I kept writing for two hundred more pages.' I read in an obit that Foote's three volume, 3,000 page magnum opus about the civil war was originally supposed to be a short one volume work.

'I have since met other great men, or men alleged to be great. Shelby Foote is the one I remember though.'"

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