Author Club: James Agee

Flavorwire Author Club: How James Agee Changed Film Criticism

What’s most impressive — and, in many ways, intimidating — about James Agee isn’t just the sheer versatility of his work, from poetry to nonfiction to novels to screenplays. It’s that he was so brilliant at all of them. This wasn’t a writer who just tossed off his side projects; his film criticism, which appeared primarily in Time and The Nation from 1941 to 1948, was far from a paycheck gig. Within the confines of contemporary film writing, Agee not only carved out a voice of his own, but helped establish the parameters of modern film writing. “For aficionados of film criticism,” writes Jerry Roberts in The Complete History of American Film Criticism, “he may well be the greatest American critic, or at least the greatest until Pauline Kael came along in the 1960s.” … Read More

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Flavorwire Author Club: Read a Great Writer’s Confessions in ‘Letters of James Agee to Father Flye’

“I feel, in general, as if I were dying,” James Agee wrote in his final letter to Father Harold Flye on May 11, 1955. Five days later, just before the anniversary of his father’s death, which set into motion Agee’s robust correspondence with the Episcopal priest that’s collected in Letters of James Agee to Father Flye, Agee died of a heart attack in the back of a taxi cab. He was 45 years old. … Read More

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Flavorwire Author Club: James Agee Defined New Journalism With ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’

To read James Agee and Walker Evans’ Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is a disorienting thing. It is a strange beast of a book, a work of non-fiction, a work of journalism, I suppose; experimental, diffuse, and difficult to get through. It does not do what you want a book to do. Despite that, it is rightfully a classic, one that, like Moby-Dick, barely sold, got rediscovered, and has returned to be a perennial; a book that should be required reading, especially if you want a galling, vivid, and transcendent portrayal of the country in all its contradictions and savage beauty. … Read More

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Flavorwire’s Author Club May Selection: James Agee

James Agee’s landmark 1941 book on the lives of two Depression-era sharecropping families in the South, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, is surely more than enough to place him among the literary giants of the 20th century. The book’s importance as both a document of the Dust Bowl and a forerunner of what we now call “New Journalism” is impossible to overlook, and it’s a work that still resonates with essayists like John Jeremiah Sullivan and Leslie Jamison. … Read More

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