Yesterday’s Obituaries

Shelby Foote, RIP. “The singing of the bone saws,” a frequent refrain in his Civil War trilogy, was poetry. What I most remember of the letters that passed between Percy and Foote was the shared longing to sit in one another’s presence – friendship needs a life lived in common, or at least, decently regular visits.


  1. AnotherCoward says

    Still hadn’t got around to Percy. First time I’ve heard of Foote. I’ve been reading some O’Connor short stories. I imagine I might know more of what to think about them if I could discuss them with someone.

  2. Anonymous says

    AC: Foote’s “Civil War” trilogy is considered one of the finest pop-history treatments of the subject. Epic length, but worth the effort.

  3. Anonymous says


    Let me post the Akilles and Patrokolos poem sometime as way of a longer response, prepackaged, regarding “amicitia”, but let me just say that now the absences are like gracenotes between chords, no? They tend to sweeten the tune…

    At any rate, connecting this and the immediately previous post, this means I will live exactly 16 years longer than you.

    Don’t worry – I’ll take GOOD care of your posterity… In turn, you must take care of my place in purgatory – not to hot, not to cold, but perhaps a little of both…



  4. SomethingInMyEye says

    I bought your book (rising senior at TAC) I haven’t read it all yet, but as I flipped through it I saw the part about the Pit. Thank you for describing it the way you did. It’s dead, but I’m glad its name and good reputation lives on. I spent the bulk of my freshman year there.

  5. antiaphrodite says

    “friendship needs a life lived in common, or at least, decenty regular visits.” that is true. well, we do what we can, and with what we can…

    may his soul rest in peace.

  6. Anonymous says

    The Pit is dead? Dead? As in no more? How did this happen??? And why? Is nothing sacred? But where are underaged teenagers to go when they illegally imbibe demon rum?

    This is just so sad. *wipes tear*

    So…long live Koenigstein?

  7. Matthew Lickona says

    Well mayhap we can start a book club of the Interweb here at Godsbody. Any particular short story you’d care to start with? Not that I’m a master, but folks smarter than me do occasionally frequent this blog.
    The absences can be like gracenotes, yes, but the tune depends on remembering the notes that came before… The notion that you will outlive me is just perverse enough to be possible.
    Thanks for reading, you’re most welcome. The Pit does indeed deserve a memorial. Google “The Published Pit” and check out the post at Redeem the Time…
    Under the overpass
    Suffering the passover hum…
    Washed away in the flood, was it?

  8. AnotherCoward says

    I read The Geranium and A Good Man is Hard to Find

    I like The Geranium a lot – I liked the contrast between the old man’s relationship with Rabie and his attitudes with the neighbor next door.

    AGM is a bit harder. I think I need to reread it. I thought it was a well told story, I just didn’t really like it all that much on the first go. I didn’t see the point in it. I think, when I reread it, I’m going to pay more attention to the men characters. On the first pass, I was so engrossed with the grandmother that I pretty much missed thinking about anything else. I really didn’t understand what all transpired there right at the end – what was it that she was seeing (or was it just some kind of breakdown?), and what spooked him so much to do that?

  9. CatholiCop says

    As a native southerner and fan of Flannery, Shelby Foote, Walker Percy, and others, I am gratified to see him so celebrated (if only in death.)
    Would that the rest of the country would remember these folks when the Blue states look down their noses at us Red States….hmmmm, I wonder if we can get a common movement to reclassify them a GREY states?
    Then we’d be on to something!

  10. Matthew Lickona says

    Catholic cop,
    Remember those TV ads for the Civil War chess set? The ponderous tone of the pitchman as he caressed the words: “Union blue… Confederate Grey…” Good stuff.

  11. Anothuh Cowahd (NJ accent coming through!),

    OK, I’ll bite: A Good Man Is Hard to Find takes the premise found in Thomas (and I think Augustine) regarding capital punishment – and the graces which seem to become available to those who know the immediate threat of death is on their souls. (If a man does not repent and convert with the noose hanging over his head, he probably won’t at all.) What makes the irony so dear in the story is the fact that the old lady is “innocent” but only in the eyes of men. Her imperfections speak volumes about the necessity in her soul for conversion. The “Good Man” here is the Misfit of course – and his action is seen by the reader and acknowledged by the Misfit himself as a severe mercy visited upon her. In a way, this story is the paradigmatic Flannery O’Connor story: the grotesque and the violent acting as vehicles of grace. There’s more floating around in the story than just this, but I think the Thomistic understanding of capital punishment gets at the heart of things. (Remember, O’Connor does refer to herself as a Georgia backwoods Thomist or something to that effect.) There’s also the realization – of the type that often makes one’s skin crawl – that yes the work of evil hearts can be the vehicle for grace, too.

    At any rate, one of the things that haunts me about O’Connor is the “what-ifs” of her development as a writer. It could be argued that toward the end she was beginning to write beyond her “method” or “formula” – weak man botches things, grace comes in form of violence, weak man becomes strong or at least “wise” before he is destroyed. What would her later fiction have looked like? It’s been said that if you look too long into the abyss, the abyss begins to look into you. Maybe O’Connor began to realize this, and so began looking more toward the sun and less toward the cave (to cross-fertilize O’Connor with Plato). I’m not thinking of any particular story or stories at the moment, but it’s clear that with her novels, anyway, she was beginning to think beyond the formula. The aversion of the abyss might also be Percy’s motive for fooling around its edges (Lancelot, Thanatos) but for the most part choosing comedy over the violent/grotesque: he LIVED the grotesque in his early life – both parents committing suicide, etc. – so like Dante, not tragedy, but comedy was the purgative for him and the vehicle for great lit.

    I haven’t scratched either O’Connor or Percy anytime recently, so excuse the lack of direct references, but that’s what it seems to me to be what makes the two of them “tick.”

    On a further note, I would challenge anyone willing to take the time to look at the various modern Polish Poets – Czelaw Milosz, Z. Herbert, Adam Zagajewski, and, yes, Karol Wojtiya (did I spell all these guys right?) – if you’re looking for literature infused with, for lack of a better term, the “Catholic” imagination. It’s Russian literature with a particularly Catholic twist – less dismal, less pessimistic, but with the same leaden skies and leaden souls you find in the best Tolstoy, Dostoevsky or Gogol. (It is remarkable, by the way, that the best stuff coming out of Poland is for the most part lyric (which in many ways is the anodyne if not antithesis to the novel, especially the lugubrious Russian Novel). It’s almost as if the Polish soul is not only striving to break out of (or fly above) the shadow of Russia, but, with Poland’s soul being almost synonymous with Catholicism, these Polish sons can do naught else but the lyric – the aching praise of presence/lamentation of absence which seems to define the borders if not the landscape of lyric. Not all these Polish poets are equally at home in the Church, mind you, but the tension in their work clearly shows the inescapable influence of the Church – as spiritual and political reality – on their souls.

    At any rate, if anyone out there is still interested in poetry, there really is a vast body of work by the Poles worth considering.


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