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Famous Men, Famous Man

I'm three-fourths finished with Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and what a frustrating and exhausting ride it's been. For twenty pages Agee will meticulously and obsessively describe the tenant families' clothes, then he'll veer off on a comma- and colon-infested polemic, but then he'll craft a passage of exquisite lyrical beauty. Consistency was clearly not one of his strengths. Nor discretion: at one point he implausibly states "There will be no time in this volume to tell much of personalities..." when he's already taken plenty of time to describe the grain of the wallboards, an inventory of a dresser drawer or his bitter thoughts on the American educational system - and when it's precisely the personalities of the families I most want to know about.

I've enjoyed this book here and there, but I'm really looking forward to finishing it and moving on to some concise narrative fiction whose authors' presence don't saturate every page.

September 24, 2008 in Books | Permalink


Stay away from Saramago if you want to avoid author intrusion.

I just finished Magnus Mills' novel Explorers of the New Century and liked it immensely. It's short and might give you a little diversion.

Posted by: Paul Lamb at Sep 24, 2008 8:45:52 PM