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

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4.38  ·  Rating details ·  157 Ratings  ·  19 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
Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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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Realini
A Death in the Family by James Agee

Another version of this note, together with three others on this novel and thoughts on other books are available at:

- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...


As the title clearly states, one of the main characters dies.
Quite early on.

- Then death itself becomes a sort of a personage
- And if not, its presence is felt heavily throughout the account

Normally, this subject is repelling to me, not just unattractive.
Nevertheless, there is a need to come to terms with
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Charles
Dec 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dan Gorman
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read the first book in this anthology, "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men." It's a rambling and lyrical text, formally transgressive in its structure (a mishmash of theatre, prose and verse poetry, journalism, memoir, creative nonfiction, classical allusions, and documentary photography). James Agee and Walker Evans give us a textured record of life in Jim Crow-era Alabama, showing the abject poverty of black and white residents and the racial tensions of the region. On a literary level, this book ...more
Patrick
Mar 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Bought this for the deep tracks, mainly the few short stories that aren't easily found anywhere else. There are three in this collection. The first is Death in the Desert which is my favorite of the three. It's the story about the moment we get co-opted in the wrongs of the world we live in. In this case, a hitchhiker doesn't protest when the driver of the car he is in refuses to pick up an African American walking in the middle of the desert, clearly suffering from the extreme climate. The hitc ...more
David LeGault
Feb 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mfa-booklist
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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Carter West
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
[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
Christopher Sutch
Jul 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 09, 2013 marked it as to-read
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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  • Novels, 1956-1964
  • Novels, 1936-1940: Absalom, Absalom! / The Unvanquished / If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem / The Hamlet
  • Novels and Memoirs, 1941-1951: The Real Life of Sebastian Knight / Bend Sinister / Speak, Memory
  • Pierre, Israel Potter, The Piazza Tales, The Confidence-Man, Tales, Billy Budd
  • Novels, 1967-1972: When She Was Good / Portnoy's Complaint / Our Gang / The Breast
  • The Sheltering Sky, Let it Come Down, The Spider's House
  • The House of Mirth / The Reef / The Custom of the Country / The Age of Innocence
  • Novels and Stories, 1920-1922
  • Later Novels
  • Novels & Stories 1963-1973: Cat's Cradle/God Bless You, Mr Rosewater/Slaughterhouse-Five/Breakfast of Champions/Stories
  • Novels 1942-52: The Moon is Down/Cannery Row/The Pearl/East of Eden
  • David Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s and 50s
  • Novels, 1881-1886: Washington Square / The Portrait of a Lady / The Bostonians
  • Folklore, Memoirs, and Other Writings
  • Collected Plays 1944-1961
  • Complete Novels: The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter / Reflections in a Golden Eye / The Ballad of the Sad Cafe / The Member of the Wedding / Clock Without Hands
  • Road Novels 1957–1960
  • Complete Novels: The Robber Bridegroom, Delta Wedding, The Ponder Heart, Losing Battles, The Optimist's Daughter
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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...
“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.” 1 likes
“In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again; and in him, too, one more, and of each of us, our terrific responsibility towards human life; towards the utmost idea of goodness, of the horror of error, and of God.” 0 likes
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