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Let us now read James Agee, already

At the Guardian blog, Chris Routledge writes a fine appreciation for James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. The book has been on my shelf, still unread, for more than ten years. (I have, however, thumbed through it several times for Walker Evans' classic photographs which accompany the text.) I started reading it once, a few years ago, but gave up after only about ten pages. One of my goals for this year is to finally sit down and read the book. I've heard from others that the text is a bit impenetrable (I also remember, vaguely, those first ten pages being as such) but I get the feeling that the effort, no matter how considerable, will be very much worth it.

And if that proves successful, I suppose I'll next be checking out Dale Maharidge's And Their Children After Them: The Legacy of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, which I just stumbled across for the first time. It's published by the esteemed Seven Stories Press, and described by none other than Studs Terkel as "at times astonishing, at all times deeply moving", so I really can't see how I could go wrong with this one.

January 11, 2008 in Books | Permalink


I recently read this for a class I took with Alexander Hemon. The course was great but having to read this book was excruciating. Agee was ambitious for sure but his book, while stylistically dazzling in some spots, is basically a giant list of objects (like the contents of of a shed) that don't convey the tragedy of the time in any satisfactory way. Evans' photos are wonderful but the text I'm afraid was in bad need of an editor.

Posted by: Mike at Jan 15, 2008 12:31:59 PM