The Correspondence of Shelby Foote and Walker Percyby Shelby Foote
In the late 1940s, Walker Percy and Shelby Foote, friends since their teenage years in Greenville, Mississippi, began a correspondence that would last until Percy's death in 1990. Walker Percy, the highly regarded author of The Moviegoer, wrote six novels, two
“A fascinating window into a lifelong friendship and the writing life.” Kirkus Reviews
In the late 1940s, Walker Percy and Shelby Foote, friends since their teenage years in Greenville, Mississippi, began a correspondence that would last until Percy's death in 1990. Walker Percy, the highly regarded author of The Moviegoer, wrote six novels, two volumes of philosophical writings, and numerous essays. Shelby Foote met with early success as a novelist, but his reputation today rests more upon his massive three-volume narrative history of the Civil War, and his role as commentator in Ken Burns's documentary The Civil War. The correspondence between Percy and Foote traces their lives from the beginning of their respective careers, when they were grappling fiercely and openly with their ambitions, artistic doubts, and personal problems. Although they discuss such serious matters as the death of Foote's mother and Percy's battle with cancer, their letters are full of sly humor and good-natured ribbing. Jay Tolson has selected, edited, and annotated the letters of these two remarkable writers to shed light on their relationship and their literary careers. Includes an eight-page insert with photographs of the writers chronicling their friendship.
Percy's reputation rests on his novels, especially the National Book Awardwinning The Moviegoer and Love in the Ruins, Foote's on his titanic nonfiction narrative The Civil War. Because literary orthodoxy beholds Percy as the brighter star, it's surprising how much more brilliantly Foote shines here. Though younger by six months, Foote, who published four novels by age 35, is initially a kind of artistic big brother to Percy, who in 1948 began the first of two unpublished novels that preceded The Moviegoer. Since Foote didn't save Percy's letters until 1970, the first 22 years are one-sided: Foote's expansive, 19th-century epistolary style (he recaps Percy's philosophical and artistic arguments as he refutes them) is nearly detailed enough to carry the monologue, and his passionfor writing, reading, music, foodis more than up to the task. However, better annotation from Tolson (as well as a fuller introduction that would put their works in a sequential context) would have shed some welcome light. Even as Percy's star rises, his lettersshorter, less composed, and less frequentreveal a more tentative, self-doubting muse compared with the brimming confidence that propels Foote fearlessly into his 1.5-million-word magnum opus. Beneath the deeply abiding fraternal affection of boyhood friends (they met at 14 in Greenville, Miss.) lie diametrical approaches to art. Foote, driven to tell stories because "how a thing happens is more interesting than what happens" or why, advises the "christian existentialist" (as Percy ruefully considered himself pigeonholed) to "leave psychology to the psychologists, theology to the theologians." Percy saves his didacticism for fiction, while Foote continuously assails his friend with literary advice and books to readmost prominently Proust, whom Percy resists to the end.
Despite shortcomings in the editorial packaging, the letters provide a fascinating window into a lifelong friendship and the writing life.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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- Product dimensions:
- 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.80(d)
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A wonderful read. Both Foote and Percy, especially Shelby Foote, wrote interesting, witty, revealing letters to each other. Anyone who enjoyed Mr. Foote's remarks in Ken Burn's Civil War tv series, will enjoy 'hearing' his style and personality when reading this volume of correspondence.