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Another attempt to tackle Agee

Having just finished Erskine Caldwell's grim but invigorating Tobacco Road (a very good book, despite being perhaps the only book I've ever read which lacks even a single sympathetic or redeeming character), I thought the obvious natural progression in my Summer of Classics would be to tackle James Agee and Walker Evans' Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. I've started and abandoned the book several times during the fifteen-odd years I've owned it, during which time I've largely limited myself to marveling at Evans' impeccable photographs. But with Caldwell's novel still vivid in my mind, and with the two books having comparable subject matter - impoverished Southern tenant farmers during the lean 1930s - I've decided to give Agee's knotty prose another try.

This morning I made it through the prologue, in which Agee declaims rather long-windedly (while simultaneously taking himself to task for that very same long-windedness) on the genesis, meaning and likely impact of the book. With that section blessedly behind me, I'm eager to move on to Agee's narrative itself and his description of the desperate lives of the three sharecropper families.

September 3, 2008 in Books | Permalink