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Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, A Death in the Family, and Shorter Fiction

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4.45 of 5 stars 4.45  ·  rating details  ·  107 ratings  ·  15 reviews
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 hi
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Hardcover, 818 pages
Published September 22nd 2005 by Library of America
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Kevin LaCamera
Recondite, self-indulgent, evocative, fitful, inimitable, genius. Agee makes me cry.

Excerpt: “Knoxville: Summer of 1915," James Agee

We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville Tennessee in the time that I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child.

...It has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently and watching the street and the standing up into their sphere of possession of the trees, of birds' hung havens, hangars.
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Charles
I tried to turn this book into a readers theatre piece. I gave up because I couldn't cut it down to two hours of material. I loved so much of it, every cut seemed like a crime, every omission seemed like a mortal sin.
Carter West
[Re. "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men"] Arduous, clotted, circuitous, fevered, unwittingly solipsistic, ultimately exasperating - yet, for all that, a great book. I bailed out a little over halfway through, at the point where I could no longer bear the forcing-together of blank verse and armchair epistemology. But Agee remains true to his quest to find a vehicle for expressing his inexpressible. He finds his encounter with three sharecropper families in a 1936 Alabama summer to be so elemental, so ...more
David Legault
I've had this book on my stack for 3 years now, and after 2 or 3 previous attempts I've finally finished it. A lot of people refer to this book as the first true instance of what we'd call creative nonfiction, and although I'm not sure about that, it's easy to see its influence all over everything worth reading in the genre as it currently exists.

This book probably took longer for me to read than anything else I've ever read. The first 100 pages or so were difficult to crack (both in terms of vo
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Christopher Sutch
For my reviews of the longer works in this volume, see the individual reviews for _Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,_ _The Morning Watch,_ and _A Death in the Family._ The remaining three short stories are, for the most part, quite good. Two of the three are from Agee's Harvard days in the early 1930s and reveal that, though he had not yet reached his artistic maturity, he was a naturally talented writer. "Death in the Desert" is an attack on Southern racism that poses a moral quandary for those who ...more
Jim Leckband
It is always refreshing to read an author who has such a singular voice. He endows the mundane with the grace of myths. Obviously this is what he did in "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men", but it is also what he does in the other pieces in this book. In lesser hands the kinds of things he attempts would be ludicrous since it seems he grants the subject matter so much more weight than it seems to warrant - sharecroppers or the viewpoint of a child in a family death. One expects lush and grandiose pro ...more
Lloyd Fassett
Jul 21, 2014 Lloyd Fassett is currently reading it
Shelves: fiction
Read about "The Cotton Tenets" being published in The New York Times as a book. It was an unpublished article for Fortune magazine from about 1933, with Walker Evans as photograpgher, and predecesor to Famous Men. John Steinbeck had the same pattern in the same years with a newspaper article that preceded Grapes of Wrath with Dorothea Lang as photoghapher.

Library of America collections are the bomb because they include detailed year by year chronology of an author's life at the back so you have
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Felix
This collection of Agee's work came as a Christmas present a couple of years ago. Although I had read both A Death in the Family and Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, getting this book caused me to re-read those works as well as some of the shorter fiction.

Simply reading the words again was reward enough, for Agee was a stylist of great power, and the stories were so immeasurably supported by the manner of their telling.
Andrea
This book haunted me from the first reading (A Death in the Family), so I reread it in 2007. I still need to go back and read the rest of his compiled works included in this edition, but the writing style transported me into their neighborhood immediately.

I will probably read this several more times in my life.
Mary
I loved _A Death in the Family_. When I first moved to Knoxville for my masters degree, everyone talked dropped Agee's name frequently...Agee this, Agee that; the street called Agee. I thought it was hype. It wasn't; this book is remarkable. Especially the thoughts of the two children. Brilliant.
Jack Chipperfield
Great writer loved Death in the Family-IN Let us now praise famous men Agee uses the technique of maddening detailed observations of the surroundings he brings out the tragic pain, poverty and dignity of the families. Frankly Walker Evans pictures tell the whole story.
Ed Mcfadden
The first part, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, was interesting in style but tediously unreadable. The short novel, A Death in The Family was a lovely look at the impact loss has from multiple perpsectives.
Sarah Surratt
A Death in the Family is one of my favorite novels ever.
Martha
May 05, 2008 Martha is currently reading it
I am saving this book for Berlin...
Rachel
Aug 20, 2007 Rachel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: James Agee fans; southern lit. readers, readers with interests in class and representation
Disturbing, problematic, but brilliant.
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An American author, journalist, poet, screenwriter and film critic. In the 1940s, he was one of the most influential film critics in the U.S. His autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family (1957), won the author a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.

Life
Agee was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, at Highland Avenue and 15th Street (renamed James Agee Street in 1999) to Hugh James Agee and Laura Whitman Tyler.
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More about James Agee...
A Death in the Family Let Us Now Praise Famous Men Cotton Tenants: Three Families Agee on Film: Criticism and Comment on the Movies The Morning Watch

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“We got dressed, and walked downstairs and into the parlor. Everyone was clean in the clean parlor, and waiting for supper, sitting patiently but unrelaxed; with labor past, with hands unbusied, with mind unmolested, they sat very tired waiting for their food and for their few hours of quiet and for their few hours of sleep; and for the next morning, and for the next evening, and for a Sunday, and for another week and Sunday; for autumn and for winter, for spring and for summer; for another year, for another ten; for the slow chemistry of change and age; for the loss of pigments and tissues, of senses and wits, of faculties and perceptions; for the silencing of all clamor and the sealing of all sight; for the final levelling of all desire, of all despair, of all joy, of all tribulations; for the final quelling of all fear and pride and love and disaffection; for the final dissolution of the flesh and of all that flesh must suffer, sickness of soul and body, fast-withering delight and clouded love, unkindness and grief and wrong beyond reckoning; for the final resolution of all the good they had wrought, and all the ill; they sat resting after battle, with quiet hands and unperceiving eyes, without emotion to receive once more the deliberate edge of evening.” 0 likes
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