book/daddy: March 2009 Archives


Obituaries described Horton Foote, who died Wednesday, as a great storyteller, a writer of ordinary Americans. To me, these sound just a little condescending. For them, Foote is not a great dramatist on par with an Albee or Mamet. He's a great storyteller - as if he were some folksy character on a front porch just spinning yarns about his kin.

It's easy to get this impression. I confess I held it at first. Foote never went to college (although he and his wife did end up running a school in Washington, D.C.) Some of Foote's earliest works - like The Trip to Bountiful - were written for television, and they remain some of his most popular. They're also his most sentimental. The characters here express what they feel and act on those feelings. End of story. The small town settings, the countryfied language, the homey qualities: Nothing much will surprise you.

The New York Times obituary claimed, unsurprisingly, that the Times' theater critic Frank Rich was partly responsible for rediscovering and reviving Foote's career. Actually, for anyone who was paying attention, the change was apparent with the 1983 film, Tender Mercies, in which Robert Duvall plays a washed-up, drunken country singer. And won an Oscar.

March 5, 2009 9:17 PM | | Comments (2)


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