What do you do when you’re wearing pajamas? Do you go to bed, as I do, or do you go to work in them? This question may sound stupid, and the answer obvious. But such is not the case for one famous author—Shelby Foote.
Mister Foote once told The Paris Review that he lived in his pajamas. In other words, he wore them almost all the time at home. Another peculiarity about this famous twentieth century writer and friend of William Faulkner—he wrote with a dip inkwell pen.
Oh, he’d eventually type out his manuscripts, but when he whipped out his first drafts these pens were his preferred writing tool. He considered himself a novelist. And he was, having written five novels in five years. The French and Italians loved his books, all of them bestsellers in their respective countries.
However, in the United States, he wasn’t well-known until late in life. Thanks to his famous trilogy, The Civil War: A Narrative, he’s recognized in the States as a historian. He spent twenty years living in his pajamas while writing this massive series…with a dip inkwell pen.
What brought him to literary prominence in the States? Ken Burns’s television documentary, The Civil War (1990). In this series, Foote provided major commentary. His physical appearance and Mississippi drawl…It was as though he’d fought in that war himself and then stepped through a time machine to tell us “moderns” about it. Because of his “stardom” in this documentary, sales of his trilogy soared.
He passed away on June 29, 2005, at the age of eighty-eight.
Coleman, Carter and Donald Faulkner and William Kennedy. “Shelby Foote, The Art of Fiction No. 158.” The Paris Review, Issue 151 Summer 1999, http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/931/shelby-foote-the-art-of-fiction-no-158-shelby-foote.