El's Reviews > Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee
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's review
May 20, 2007

it was ok
bookshelves: 20th-centurylit-early, cultural-studies-and-other

James Agee and photographer Walker Evans teamed up in the 1930s to portray tenant families as painfully honestly as possible. With Agee's knack for vivid description and Evans' talent of capturing ones humanity in haunting quality, this book (shelved as Sociology) takes three tenant families in Alabama in the middle of the Great Depression and describes their lifestyle, their work and their environment in brutal honesty.

While all components were solid - Agee's narrative, Evans' art - as a collective unit there was a lot missing for me. Originally meant to be a documentary on the lives of tenant farmers for Fortune magazine, the information was introduced as individual units. While rejected by the magazine in the late 30s, publishers picked it up by the early 40s and put it all into one volume, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Some pieces are diary entries, some are detailed descriptions regarding the homes of each of the three families, written in painstaking (and I mean painstaking) detail.

I especially enjoyed Agee's Death in the Family and I can appreciate Evans' photography, but somehow the two did not mesh as well in this volume as one would have imagined. It was hard to keep my interest - the bits I enjoyed the most were the interactions between Agee and the families; unfortunately, this was not the majority of the book.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Katie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:12PM) (new)

Katie I'm sorry to hear that it didn't wow you. I've been meaning to read this for a long time, and I had high hopes for it.

message 2: by El (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:12PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

El As usual, I seem to be in the minority. I have read other reviews and people seem to really love it. I would still give it a chance if I were you. I read it in fits and starts, and that usually affects the way I feel about a book by the end. I wind up feeling like I must have missed something because it never 100% grabbed me.

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