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Works by
James Agee
(aka James Rufus Agee)
[1909 - 1955]

Profile created January 25, 2007
  • Permit Me Voyage (1934)

  • Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families in the Deep South (1941) with Walker Evans
    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. Their journey would prove an extraordinary collaboration and a watershed literary event when in 1941 LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN was first published to enormous critical acclaim. This unsparing record of place, of the people who shaped the land, and of the rhythm of their lives was called intensely moving and unrelentingly honest, and is "renowned for its fusion of social conscience and artistic radicality" (New York Times). Today it stands as a poetic tract of its time, recognized by the New York Public Library as one of the most influential books of the twentieth century. With an elegant new design as well as a sixty-four-page photographic prologue of Evans's classic images, reproduced from archival negatives, this sixtieth anniversary edition reintroduces the legendary author and photographer to a new generation.

  • Screen Adaptation for The African Queen (1951)
    Adapted from the C. S. Forester novel

  • Morning Watch (1951)

  • The Night of the Hunter (1954)
    (Adapted from Davis Grubb novel

  • A Death in the Family (1957)
    Forty years after its original publication, James Agee's last novel seems, more than ever, an American classic. For in his lyrical, sorrowful account of a man's death and its impact on his family, Agee painstakingly created a small world of domestic happiness and then showed how quickly and casually it could be destroyed.

    On a sultry summer night in 1915, Jay Follet leaves his house in Knoxville, Tennessee, to tend to his father, whom he believes is dying. The summons turns out to be a false alarm, but on his way back to his family, Jay has a car accident and is killed instantly. Dancing back and forth in time and braiding the viewpoints of Jay's wife, brother, and young son, Rufus, Agee creates an overwhelmingly powerful novel of innocence, tenderness, and loss that should be read aloud for the sheer music of its prose.

    A posthumous stage adaptation was named All the Way Home

  • Agee on Film: Criticism and Comment on the Movies (1958)
    James Agee was passionately involved with the movies throughout his life. A master of both fiction and nonfiction, he wrote about film in clean, smart prose as the reviewer for Time magazine and as a columnist for The Nation. Agee was particularly perceptive about the work of his friend John Huston and recognized the artistic merit of certain B films such as The Curse of the Cat People and other movies produced by Val Lewton.

  • Agee on Film, Volume II (1960)
    Five Film Scripts: Noa Noa; The African Queen; The Night of the Hunter; The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky; The Blue Hotel

  • The Collected Poems of James Agee (1968), Robert Fitzgerald, ed.

  • The Collected Short Prose of James Agee (1968)

  • The Selected Poems of James Agee (1970)

  • Letters of James Agee to Father Flye (1971)

  • James Agee: Selected Journalism (1985), Paul Ashdown, ed.

  • Brooklyn Island: Travel Notes: Southeast of the Island (2005)
    In 1939, James Agee was assigned to write an article on Brooklyn for a special issue of Fortune on New York City. The draft was rejected for creative differences, and remained unpublished until it appeared in Esquire in 1968 under the title Southeast of the Island: Travel Notes.

    Crossing the borough from the brownstone heights over the Brooklyn Bridge out through backstreet neighborhoods like Flatbush, Midwood, and Sheepshead Bay that roll silently to the sea, Agee captured in 10,000 remarkable words, the essence of a place and its people. Propulsive, lyrical, jazzy, and tender, its pitch-perfect descriptions endure even as Brooklyn changes; Agee's essay is a New York classic. Resonant with the rhythms of Hart Crane, Walt Whitman, and Thomas Wolfe, it takes its place alongside Alfred Kazin's A Walker in the City as a great writer's love-song to Brooklyn and alongside E. B. White's Here Is New York as an essential statement of the place so many call home.

See also:
  • James Agee: A Life (1984) by Laurence Bergreen;

  • And Their Children After Them (1989) by Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson
    Author/photographer team returns to the land and families captured in James Agee and Walker Evans's inimitable masterwork Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, extending the project of conscience and chronicling the traumatic decline of King Cotton. In 1936, during a brief window of national attention to the topic, Fortune magazine commissioned from Agee and Evans a story on poverty among tenant farmers in Alabama. Agee was famously ambivalent in his role, calling himself a spy and ultimately delivering a book-length manuscript unpublishable in magazine form. With this continuation of Agee and Evans's work, Maharidge and Williamson not only uncover some surprising historical secrets relating to the families and to Agee himself, but also effectively lay to rest Agee's fear that his work, from lack of reverence or resilience, would be but another offense to the humanity of its subjects.

  • The Real Thing: Imitation and Authenticity in American Culture, 1880-1940 (1989) by Alan Trachtenberg and Miles Orvell
    This is a perceptive study of the relationship between technology and culture. Orvell discusses Whitman and his world, then considers material culture, photography, and literature. Among the cultural figures discussed are writers Henry James, John Dos Passos, and James Agee; photographers Alfred Stieglitz and Margaret Bourke-White; and architect-designers Gustav Stickley and Frank Lloyd Wright. A witty essay on the significance of junk in the 1930s concludes the book.

  • James Agee: Reconsiderations (1992) by Michael A. Lofaro

  • Always Straight Ahead: A Memoir (1993) by Alma Neuman

  • Chaplin and Agee: The Untold Story of the Tramp, the Writer, and the Lost Screenplay (2005) by John Wranovics
    The first book about the unusual friendship between two beloved American figures C haplin and Ageecharts the friendship between James Agee, author of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and Pulitzer Prizewinning A Death in the Familyand screenwriter for American classics including The African Queen, and Charlie Chaplin, who starred in a staggering number of films from 1914 to 1967. This friendship emerged in the midst of the tumult of the 1940s and 1950s with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, McCarthyism and blacklisting. In print here for the first time is Agee's first screenplay, The Scientist and the Tramp, lost until recently. The striking screenplay-a comedy 'so dark it was without precedent'-was written for Chaplin's tramp character and set in post-apocalyptic New York. Chaplin and Agee also features many previously unpublished letters and photographs. As the story moves from Hollywood to Paris to Greenwich Village, these two figures come to life, revealing the untold story of the great bond between two influential twentieth century artists.

  • James Agee (2005), Michael Sragow, ed.
    James Agee had a passion for art in all its aspects, but it was the new art of the movies that was his greatest inspiration as a critic. Agee on Film: Reviews and Comments, the classic collection of his pioneering reviews from the 1940s, has long been recognized as the single most influential American book about movies. Witty, probing, lacerating in his moral criticisms, eloquent in his admiration of filmmakers from Charlie Chaplin to John Huston, Agee is a critic who engages the reader no matter what subject he is writing about. This volume contains the full text of Agee on Film along with a trove of other previously uncollected film reviews; Agee's screenplay for Charles Laughton's gothic masterpiece The Night of the Hunter; and a fascinating selection of Agee's penetrating journalism and book reviews.

  • James Agee Rediscovered: The Journals for 'Let Us Now Praise Famous Men' and Other New Manuscripts (2005) by Hugh Davis and Michael A. Lofaro

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