James Agee: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, A Death in the Family, ShorterFiction

Overview

A passionate literary innovator, eloquent in language and uncompromising in his social observation and his pursuit of emotional truth, James Agee (1909-1955) excelled as novelist, critic, journalist, and screenwriter. In his brief, often turbulent life, he left enduring evidence of his unwavering intensity, observant eye, and sometimes savage wit.

This volume collects his fiction along with his extraordinary experiment in what might be called prophetic journalism, Let Us Now ...

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Overview

A passionate literary innovator, eloquent in language and uncompromising in his social observation and his pursuit of emotional truth, James Agee (1909-1955) excelled as novelist, critic, journalist, and screenwriter. In his brief, often turbulent life, he left enduring evidence of his unwavering intensity, observant eye, and sometimes savage wit.

This volume collects his fiction along with his extraordinary experiment in what might be called prophetic journalism, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941), a collaboration with photographer Walker Evans that began as an assignment from Fortune magazine to report on the lives of Alabama sharecroppers, and that expanded into a vast and unique mix of reporting, poetic meditation, and anguished self-revelation that Agee described as "an effort in human actuality." A 64-page photo insert reproduces Evans's now iconic photographs from the expanded 1960 edition.

A Death in the Family, the Pulitzer PrizeĆ½winning novel that he worked on for over a decade and that was published posthumously in 1957, re-creates in stunningly evocative prose Agee's childhood in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the upheaval his family experienced after his father's death in a car accident when Agee was six years old. A whole world, with its sensory vividness and social constraints, comes to life in this child's-eye view of a few catastrophic days. It is presented here for the first time in a text with corrections based on Agee's manuscripts at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.

This volume also includes The Morning Watch (1951), an autobiographical novella that reflects Agee's deep involvement with religious questions, and three short stories including the remarkable allegory "A Mother's Tale."

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In his all-too-brief life, Agee (1909-55) produced acclaimed writings in fiction, journalism, and criticism; these two volumes, edited by Baltimore Sun film critic Sragow, offer a thorough representation of his literary output. Volume 1 opens with Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a portrayal of Alabama sharecroppers through Agee's poignant words and Walker Evans's haunting photographs. Next is a selection of Agee's fiction, most notably A Death in the Family, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel based on the author's Tennessee childhood, here newly corrected from original manuscripts. Volume 2 is a sumptuous gathering of film reviews originally published in the Nation and Time as well as some that have not appeared in previous collections. The range of these pieces is impressive, covering movies as varied as Lifeboat, The Song of Bernadette, and The Enchanted Cottage and focusing on every film personality imaginable; all of them bear the imprint of Agee's distinctive analytical and literary style. Additional works include the renowned essay on silent film comedy that appeared in Life, as well as literary reviews, reportage on subjects from orchids to cockfighting, and a screenplay for Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter. The accompanying notes and chronology are quite helpful, and more such enhancements would have been welcome. Academic libraries and large circulating collections would be wise to invest in these quality volumes.-Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781931082815
  • Publisher: Library of America
  • Publication date: 9/22/2005
  • Series: Library of America Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 818
  • Sales rank: 589,071
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.11 (h) x 1.17 (d)

Table of Contents

Let us now praise famous men 1
The morning watch 401
A death in the family 465
Stories
Death in the desert 743
They that sow in sorrow shall reap 756
A mother's tale 777
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