"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 21 October 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.

    Shelby Foote


Investing the phrase "egg on your face" with rich, new significance, Suck is proud to announce the recipients of its first annual Evil Genius Grants. Over the next 10 days, the Suck EGG honorees, as selected by Suck's blue ribbon panel of experts, will be profiled on this page. Included are standouts in fields as diverse as pop music and pop-music criticism, film acting and film directing, magazine punditry and television punditry. But unlike those humdrum, dime-per-dozen MacArthur Foundation "genius" grants, each Suck EGG fellowship is offered not for such narrow purposes as "rewarding outstanding achievement" or celebrating the "power and possibilities of human creativity." Nor are they extended to those whose work represents the "greatest benefit to mankind," like the recently announced Nobel Prizes.

Instead, the Suck EGGs provide an infinitely more valuable service to humanity: Namely, each fellowship is granted only on the condition that for the next calendar year, in the interests of Human Civilization, its recipients stop doing the voodoo that they do so annoyingly well. (To prevent welshing, actual prizes are not conferred until the completion of each term.) Those who aspire to the heights of EGGdom in the future should realize that, by definition, it is impossible for us to accept applications - since this is an award not for who you are, but who you will cease to be.

- Sucksters

  In all of the hubbub surrounding a certain Lenny DiCaprio film, one of the hottest unlicensed spinoffs has reportedly been a T-shirt that says simply "It sunk. Get over it." Considering the perennial, sadistic, and self-loathing obsession in which our Southern friends continue to indulge, we've been wanting to print our own shirts for quite some time: "Buck up. The North won." But if T-shirts and bumper stickers changed the world, Shelby Foote, the illustrious and unrepentant Southern autodidact, would be out of a job.

Foote's most recent contribution to the world of Arts and Letters involved sitting on the Modern Library's board of advisors, the crack team that divined - apparently by reading patterns in their own liver spots - the 100 greatest modern novels in the English language. Indeed, we were tempted to honor the whole pack of ninnies with an EGG, an Imus Book Award, and free membership in Oprah's Book Club, with a lifetime supply of Tom Clancy galleys thrown in.

But Foote warrants special consideration. His primary qualification for sitting on the Modern Library's board - aside from the value of his rising literary stock, since saleability of a board member's own Modern Library titles is considered essential in the eyes of the libe - is a lifetime of fanciful thought, authoritative speculation, and quaintly inflected bloviation. The proud son of pedigreed Southern stock, Foote wrote five pedestrian novels in the 1950s before buckling down to his life's work: a three-volume tome on the Civil War which he finished in 1974. The project took 20 years of his undivided attention, and the damage shows. He still confuses his work with the war itself, regularly referring to his own life "before" and "after the war," and pontificating on the "war's effect" on his readers.

But all of that would be, as they say, just a sad Footenote, if not for his four hours of fame in The Civil War, the unlikely TV series that turned both Ken Burns and Shelby Foote into household names and PBS cash cows. By staying in the right place until the right time rolled around, Foote has managed to cash in on the bull market for history that also provides steady work for history tellers like yakking psychic friend Doris Kearns Goodwin and known bowtie-wearer Arthur Schlesinger. But it is his gift for making American history safe for whitey again that has raised Foote to the kind of technical-advisor superstardom where his only real competitor for screen time is the gruff-but-lovable Stephen E. Ambrose. For his contributions to pop punditry and his implicit championing of the Great Southern Man theory of Historians, we are proud to award Shelby Foote an incredible, albeit inedible, Suck EGG.

Place of Residence: Memphis, Tennessee
Age: 82
Award: An honorary childhood in a Boston suburb of his choice, a set of valid Illinois license plates, and a large-print copy of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain.

courtesy of the Sucksters