Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, A Death in the Family, and Shorter Fiction
"The Library of America has canonized James Agee—poet, journalist, novelist, screenwriter, and criticwhom his friend Dwight Macdonald pronounced 'the most copiously talented writer of my generation."
— The Atlantic Monthly
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A passionate literary innovator, eloquent in language and uncompromising in his social observation and his pursuit of emotional truth, James Agee (19091955) 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 Library of America 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 Prizewinning 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: "Death in the Desert," "They That Sow in Sorrow Shall Not Reap," and the remarkable allegory "A Mother's Tale."
Michael Sragow, editor, is the film critic for the Baltimore Sun and author of a forthcoming biography of Victor Fleming. His reviews and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, including Rolling Stone, the San Francisco Examiner, and The New Yorker.
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