Halberstam, Foote, and weeping

I’ll admit it.  I have been rereading David Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter, a history of the Korean War, his last book before he died.  For my money, he was one of the best American writers of his generation, whether it was one of his long histories or seemingly trivial, but not really so, documentaries about the the 1949 and 1964 baseball seasons.  In my mind, Halberstam was one of the great writers of his generation even though I suspect he will not be recognized as such.

It puts me in mind of Shelby Foote, the writer of a wonderful three volume history of the Civil War.  When the best nonfiction lists of the 20th Century were released, he was no where to be found on any of them. Yet he was the spectacular narrative historian of his generation.

I think I understand why Halberstam and Foote are under appreciated.  Alone at night, they make you weep, like Thucydides does.  Not many people have the stomach for that.  Not many people ever did.  Weeping, alone at night, is not something we seek, let alone want to come across.

Well, my Halberstam and Foote books will always be some of my prized possessions.  And I will always love my Thucydides.

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Published in: on January 12, 2009 at 1:39 am  Leave a Comment  

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