AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

17 November 2011

Happy Birthday, Foote.

Shelby Foote was born on this date in 1916.



INTERVIEWER

You talk about the gods and life imitating art. Is that alive in your cosmos?

FOOTE

Yes, I think that it prints things in your mind and clarifies them for you. It’s very useful in doing that. I think that’s one of history’s main jobs—to let men know what happened, before, so they won’t make the same mistake afterward. Also, the Romans believed history was intended to publicize, if you will, the lives of great men so that we would have something to emulate. That’ll do as one of the definitions. It’s really, really and truly, a search for truth. One of the greatest writers that ever lived is William Faulkner. And he’s praised for a great many things. But what Faulkner could really do better than any writer I know, with the exception of Shakespeare—like in music you say with the exception of Mozart—Faulkner could communicate sensations, the texture of things. He could tell you what this feels like [rubs his fingers on the tablecloth]—that particular cloth, the way it rubs on your fingertips. He could make you feel it by describing it. That’s our job. That’s what you have to do, as Conrad said so often. You have to communicate sensation, the belief in what life is, what it’s about, and you do it through learning how to handle a pen. That’s the reason why I have always felt comfortable with the pen in my hand and extremely uncomfortable having some piece of machinery between me and the paper—even a typewriter let alone a word computer, which just gives me the horrors.

Read the rest in his interview in Paris Review's "Art of Fiction" series.

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