Shelby Foote, novelist, narrative historian, PBS personality (and perceived Foghorn Leghorn inspiration) died this monday, June 27, 2005. The New York Times has a fine obit, with at least one good quip by the author, which we are want to expect and enjoy. NPR also just re-ran an interview with him made in 1994.
I can make the claim that I’m one of many who have read all 1.5 million words of his Civil War, a Narrative three volume set. Not only are they essential to getting an understanding of how the South and North (note the capitalization) are similar and different from each other even today, it’s also a great read into the management styles of the various military leaders as well as one of the best (threaded throughout the set) Lincoln biographies in context of this series of battles.
I also enjoyed a series of letters between Foote and his friend Walker Percy (author of most famously The Moviegoer).
I remember savoring an interview with Mr. Foote in September 2001 where we got to hear him talk about his work and life, as well as tour his home office and get a look at his favorite books. Memorably, he was a devotee of Proust and had read his Remembrance of Things Past many times, from the same set and each time and wrote the dates of his readings in the back of one volume. That is something we all might want to do with our favorites. Perhaps I’ll do that with my own editions of Mr. Foote’s works.
Note: the phrase “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees” is said to be Civil War general Stonewall Jackson’s final words before dying in 1863, which some say was a major turning point in the Civil War.