Read Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee Free Online
Book Title: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men|
The author of the book: James Agee
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Reader ratings: 7.1
Edition: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Date of issue: March 22nd 2000
ISBN 13: 9780395957714
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 39.43 MB
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With its signature photographs reshot from archival negatives, an elegant new edition of the "most realistic and most important moral effort of our American generation" (Lionel Trilling) Published nearly sixty years ago, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men stands as an undisputed masterpiece of the twentieth century, taking its place alongside works by Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, and Walt Whitman. In a stunning blend of prose and images, this classic offers at once an unforgettable portrait of three tenant families in the Deep South and a larger meditation on human dignity and the American soul. In the summer of 1936, James Agee and Walker Evans set out on assignment for Fortune magazine to explore the daily lives of sharecroppers in the South. There they lived with three different families for a month; the result of their stay was an extraordinary collaboration, an unsparing record of place, the people who shaped the land, and the rhythm of their lives. Upon its first publication, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men was called intensely moving, unrelentingly honest. It described a mode of life -- and rural poverty -- that was unthinkably remote and tragic to most Americans, and yet for Agee and Evans, only extreme realism could serve to make the world fully aware of such circumstances. Rejected by Fortune as too unwieldy, it was published for the first time in book form in 1941. Today it stands as a poetic tract for its time, a haunting search for the human and religious meaning in the lives of true Southern heroes: in their waking, sleeping, eating; their work; their houses and children; and their endurance. With an elegant design and a sixty-four-page photographic prologue of Evans's classic images, reshot from archival negatives, the new edition reintroduces the legendary author and photographer to a new generation. Both an invaluable part of the American heritage and a graceful tribute to the vibrant souls whose stories live in these pages, this book has profoundly changed our culture and our consciousness -- and will continue to inspire for generations to come.
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Read information about the authorAn American author, journalist, poet, screenwriter and film critic. In the 1940s, he was one of the most influential film critics in the U.S. His autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family (1957), won the author a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.
Agee was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, at Highland Avenue and 15th Street (renamed James Agee Street in 1999) to Hugh James Agee and Laura Whitman Tyler. When Agee was six, his father died in an automobile accident. From the age of seven, he and his younger sister, Emma, were educated in boarding schools. The most influential of these was located near his mother's summer cottage two miles from Sewanee, Tennessee. Saint Andrews School for Mountain Boys was run by Episcopal monks affiliated with the Order of the Holy Cross, and it was there that Agee's lifelong friendship with an Episcopal priest, Father James Harold Flye, began in 1919. As Agee's close friend and spiritual confidant, Flye was the recipient of many of Agee's most revealing letters.
Agee went to Knoxville High School for the 1924–1925 school year, then travelled with Father Flye to Europe. On their return, Agee moved to boarding school in New Hampshire, entering the class of 1928 at Phillips Exeter Academy. There, he was president of The Lantern Club and editor of the Monthly where his first short stories, plays, poetry and articles were published. Agee was admitted to Harvard University's class of 1932. He was editor-in-chief of the Harvard Advocate.
In 1951 in Santa Barbara, Agee, a hard drinker and chain-smoker, suffered the first two in a series of heart attacks, which ultimately claimed his life four years later at the age of 45. He was buried on a farm he owned at Hillsdale, New York.
After graduation, he wrote for Fortune and Time magazines, although he is better known for his later film criticism in The Nation. In 1934, he published his only volume of poetry, Permit Me Voyage.
In the summer of 1936, Agee spent eight weeks on assignment for Fortune with photographer Walker Evans living among sharecroppers in Alabama. Agee turned the material into a book entitled, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941). It sold only 600 copies before being remaindered.
In 1942, Agee became the film critic for Time and, at one point, reviewed up to six books per week. Together, he and friend Whittaker Chambers ran "the back of the book" for Time. He left to become film critic for The Nation. In 1948, however, he quit both magazines to become a freelance writer. One of his assignments was a well-received article for Life Magazine about the great silent movie comedians, Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Harry Langdon, which has been credited for reviving Keaton's career. As a freelance in the 1950s, he continued to write magazine articles while working on movie scripts, often with photographer Helen Levitt.
Agee was an ardent champion of Charlie Chaplin's then extremely unpopular film Monsieur Verdoux (1947), which has since become a film classic. He was also a great admirer of Laurence Olivier's Henry V and Hamlet, especially Henry V, for which he actually published three separate reviews, all of which have been printed in the collection Agee on Film.
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, ignored on its original publication in 1941, has been placed among the greatest literary works of the 20th Century by the New York School of Journalism and the New York Public Library.
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