Let us now praise famous men : three tenant families

by James Agee

Other authorsWalker Evans (Author)
Paperback, 1988




Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1988


Agee's colleague at Time in the 1940s, John Hersey, writes a major evaluation of Agee's work and the Agee legend in a new introduction to this literary classic. 64 pages of photos.

User reviews

LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
This is a story so intense and devoted to its subject, it is almost holy writ. It is a sermon preached by the prophet Jeremiah, who preached while weeping in the streets of Jerusalem. The style is florid and ornate, not a stream but a torrent of consciousness. Some sentences are pages long musings on philosophy and writing and life which might make Faulkner smile with approval.

It is an attempt to accurately portray, in words and pictures, the lives of Tenant Farmers in the South in the worst of the Great Depression. He has an obsessive streak for description, he grabs your hand and wants you to feel everything, to get the smell ingrained in you, to look in their tired eyes and see their quiet dignity.

Evans has an equally astonishing photoset in the very beginning, but Agee's descriptions make them LIVE, and the descriptions and life and humanity within them unfold.

Agee scorns the label of their work as Art. Very well then, let us call it Life.

"Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us. The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through his great power from the beginning.
Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring prophecies:
Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent are their instructions:
Such as found out musical tunes, and recited verses in writing:
Rich men furnished with ability, living peaceably in their habitations:
All these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times.
There be of them, that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported."

"And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them.
But these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten.
With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their children are within the covenant.
Their seed standeth fast, and their children for their sakes.
Their seed shall remain for ever, and their glory shall not be blotted out.
Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore.
The people will tell of their wisdom, and the congregation will shew forth their praise."

Sirach (Apocrypha) 44: 1-15
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LibraryThing member howtoflyhome
Yes, it has a complex structure and verges on tedious at points.But you would hard pressed to find an author who could portray such a detailed account of peoples lives without getting a little tangled in it.
LibraryThing member rhodgens
I did not think a book could be written in english, that was this hard to read! I am familar with the area described (Chilton, Shelby, Perry and Bibb counties) and appreciated the photographic work by Walker Evans.

Agee, on the other hand would have made my Freshman English ("Creative Writing") teacher, Margaret Maloney at the Univ of Tenn orgasmic with its incomplete and/or 'run-on' sentences, parenthetical phrases enclosed with commas and lack of a logical plan or story.

Miss Maloney; May I give James AGEE an "F"?
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LibraryThing member LibrarysCat
I did not know what it meant to be Southern until I read this book.
LibraryThing member maiadeb
Hated it even though it is a classic. Felt like a voyeur throughout. Definitely shows that time has changed.
LibraryThing member edwinbcn
James Agee is a famous American novelist. This book however does not belong to his creative oeuvre. Instead, it is a sociological description of abject poverty in the United States during the 1930s in the aftermath of The Great Depression. With photographer Walker Evans Agee visited and documented the lives of poor Americans. The book is the ultimate example of observation and description, providing meticulously detailed description of every aspect of these people's lives. Perhaps the art of this type of writing has been made superfluous as photography and film seem to capture an even more lively impression, although film can barely convey the description of the smell of stale sweat. I assume few people will take the time to read this volume. The language is at times poetic. Oddly interspersed with seemingly irrelevant parts, the book is definitely not just a sociological study, but should be read as a type of artistic prose.… (more)
LibraryThing member EricCostello
I can't honestly give this book a rating, or even much of a review. I found it irritatingly pompous and condescending -- to the readers, that is. Other readers may find it interesting, though.



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