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“Copperhead”: An Interview With Bill Kauffman

Created on 26 June 2013

The movie I've most been looking forward to this year is "Copperhead," which opens in many cities this Friday. That's partly because it was directed by Ron Maxwell, who has made two of the movies that real Civil War buffs most adore: "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals." (Get 'em both for less than ten bucks.) It's partly because it promises to be one seriously unusual Civil War movie — it doesn't center on the question of slavery, for instance. But my anticipation mostly has to do with the scriptwriter: Bill Kauffman, who has been known so far (if not well-enough known) for his unorthodox books of history and his impossible-to-pin-down (in a good way) political journalism.

Based in Batavia, NY (in Western NY State, midway between Rochester and Buffalo), Kauffman has been a most unusual public presence for a couple of decades now. One illustration (among many possible) of this: His writing has appeared in both The Nation and The American Conservative. Part anarchist, part paleocon, part small-town advocate, part regionalist, part pacifist, he brings an expansive, generous temperament to bear on his topics that transcends the usual categories in a most wonderful way. If you're tired of the usual left/right fistfights — and who isn't? — Bill's work will come as a breath of very fresh air.

Since interviewing him for my old blog (you can find links to that interview at the end of this one) I've struck up a friendship with Bill. I took advantage of it to drop him a note and ask if he'd answer some questions for the blog about the new movie. He graciously agreed.