Shelby Foote Meeting William Faulkner: “A small man, barefoot and wearing just a pair of shorts, appeared and asked Foote what he wanted.”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of American novelist and historian Shelby Foote, born in Greenville, Mississippi in 1916. He was a successful novelist when, in 1952, he accepted the suggestion of his publisher to write a short history of the Civil War to complement his novel Shiloh (1952). Foote is best known for his trilogy, The Civil War: A Narrative.

When Foote was 19 years old, he and his classmate and best friend Walker Percy were planning to drive from Foote’s hometown through William Faulkner’s hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. Foote suggested they stop in Oxford and try to meet him. Percy waited in the car while Foote went up the cedar tree-lined walkway to Faulkner’s house. He was greeted by three hounds, two fox terriers, and a Dalmatian. Soon, a small man, barefoot and wearing just a pair of shorts, appeared and asked Foote what he wanted. “Could you tell me where to find a copy of Marble Faun, Mr. Faulkner?” Foote asked. Faulkner told him to contact his agent. Faulkner later befriended Foote, who walked Faulkner around the Civil War battlefields of Shiloh.

Foote once told Faulkner on one of their outings: “You know, I have every right to be a better writer than you. Your literary idols were Joseph Conrad and Sherwood Anderson. Mine are Marcel Proust and you. My writers are better than yours.”

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