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Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 14. August 2001

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Just what kind of book is Let Us Now Praise Famous Men? It contains many things: poems; confessional reveries; disquisitions on the proper way to listen to Beethoven; snippets of dialogue, both real and imagined; a lengthy response to a survey from the Partisan Review; exhaustive catalogs of furniture, clothing, objects, and smells. And then there are Walker Evans's famously stark portraits of depression-era sharecroppers--photographs that both stand apart from and reinforce James Agee's words.

Assigned to do a story for Fortune magazine about sharecroppers in the Deep South, Agee and Evans spent four weeks living with a poor white tenant family, winning the Burroughs's trust and immersing themselves in a sharecropper's daily existence. Given a first draft of the resulting article, the editors at Fortune quite understandably threw up their hands--as did several other editors who subsequently worked with a later book-length manuscript. The writing was contrary. It refused to accommodate itself to the reader, and at times it positively bristled with hostility. (What other book could take Marx as the epigraph and then announce: "These words are quoted here to mislead those who will be misled by them"?) Response to the book was puzzled or unfriendly, and Let Us Now Praise Famous Men sputtered out of print only a few short years after its publication. It took the 1960s, and a vogue for social justice, to bring Agee's masterwork the audience it deserved.

Yet the book is far more interesting--aesthetically and morally--than the sort of guilty-liberal tract for which it is often mistaken. On an existential level, Agee's text is a deeply felt examination of what it means to suffer, to struggle to live in spite of suffering. On a personal level, it is the painful, beautifully written portrait of one man's obsession. In its collaboration with Evans's photographs, the book is also a groundbreaking experiment in form. In the end, however, it is more than merely the sum of its parts. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is, quite simply, a book unlike any other, simmering with anger and beauty and mystery. --Mary Park -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.

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"Renowned for its fusion of social conscience and artistic radicality and for the way Evans's spare, tautly composed images and Agee's more extravagant prose complement and enhance each other." --New York Times The New York Times

The "most realistic and most important moral effort of our American generation." - Lionel Trilling
-- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.

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Einleitungssatz
It is late in a summer night, in a room of a house set deep and solitary in the country; all in this house save myself are sleeping; I sit at a table, facing a partition wall; and I am looking at a lighted coal-oil lamp which stands on the table close to the wall, and just beyond the sleeping of my relaxed left hand; with my right hand I am from time to time writing, with a soft pencil, into a school-child's composition book; but just now, I am entirely focused on the lamp, and light. Lesen Sie die erste Seite
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Format: Taschenbuch
Der junge Schriftsteller James Agee und der Photograph Walker Evans hatten 1936 einen Auftrag des Magazins "Fortune", über die Verhältnisse im armen amerikanischen Süden zu berichten. Sie ziehen acht Wochen lang von Ort zu Ort und wohnen bei den armen "sharecroppers". Das, was sie dann in Text und Bild dem Magazin abliefern, gefällt den Herausgebern ganz und gar nicht. Agees aufrüttelnder und stellenweise hochpoetischer Text sprengt die Grenzen des herkömmlichen Journalismus. Agee und Evans beschliessen, den Umfang der Reportage zu vergrößern und das Ganze als Buch herauszubringen. "Let us now praise famous men" erscheint 1941. Verkauft 600 Exemplare und wird dann eingestampft. Heute gilt es das Buch als einer der großen amerikanischen Klassiker. Es ist nach siebzig Jahren immer noch eins der ganz großen Werke der amerikanischen Literatur, eine Liebeserklärung an den kleinen Mann, der trotz der Verhältnisse seine Menschlichkeit und seine Würde bewahrt.
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Living only 3 miles from the site where this book was born, I can easily still see the horrors of what Agee and Evans witnessed. Rual Hale County, Alabama is still a place slow to develope, but with still as much pride and hope as was seen in the Depression years. The book is, at times, unequelled because of the direct accurancy describing the people, smells, conditions, and lifestyles of the three families. It is simply a work of art. The families are still around, and PBS even shot a piece on the book; however, the reminders of what was can still pierce the souls of all who live in our area. We have come a long way, but there are "miles to go." It is a work of art. Powerful! It needs to be followed up- yet I doubt that there could ever be such a quality work to follow that of Agee's.
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Can't quite give it 5 stars because Agee's self-indulgence does get to me (Evans, though is flawless). The indulgence I speak of is not so much the Agee's overdescription of his own mental states, though this can be intrusive and less than profound, but the too frequent willingness to let language and imagination take flight from reality, when reality, ultimately, is what is so compelling here. Imagination and trustworthiness unnecessarily depart ways, as Agee at times prefers the poetic to the truth. Nonetheless, the decision not to hem in those very flights of empathetic understanding that may depart from specific reality surely allowed him to give the essential breath and life to the portraiture. The perhaps more accurate, but much less illuminating, 1989 followup by Maharidge & Williamson (discussed below) is a useful contrast - all facts, rather little life. And one after all knows, reading Agee, that he probably hasn't quite got everything right; despite the book's inescapable flaws, it (and the marvelous photos) achieves the much deeper task of bringing these people to life and making outsiders understand their dignity in the face of poverty, even where that dignity is expressed in perverse ways (though sometimes seeing dignity when further investigation or more honest reporting, as Maharidge found with the Rickets, would have acknowledged more distressing truths).
But just adding a review to point the curious to a 1989 followup, And Their Children After Them, by Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson, which traces what became of the Gudgers, Woodses, Rickets, and their descendants (they keep the pseudonyms, though the names are elsewhere widely known - Burroughs, Fields, and Tingle (or Tengle)).
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In one of the most edifying ways, James Agee illustrates the life of the Southern tenant sharecropper in the Great Depression. Agee's writings coupled with the eloquent photography of one notable Walker Evans, distinguishes the book in a elite category unparalleled by few if any whatsoever. The circumstances the sharecropper endured during the Depression not only working the land but also at home with family was rigorous and was additionally exposed very thoroughly in Agee's writings. The book is a must read for anyone interested in the History of the Great Depression era/New Dealism. One other book of notable mention for those interested is Larry Nelson's- KING COTTON'S ADVOCATE.
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I don't agree that the writing is fantastic. I think that at times it bogs down and can be very boring. But the images Agee leaves with you are matched by the photographs of Evans. They are unforgettable. Read the chapter where Agee takes an entire household inventory. Amazing! I've always wanted to know--what happened to these people? These specific families...where are the children now? Did that one little girl live to adulthood? Did any of them "make something" of themselves? Fascinating questions...possibly disturbing answers.
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a remarkable use of the english language. agee takes you places you thought impossible through his astounding use of language. the prose is exhilirating and mind expanding. he takes free-form writing to new heights and just as aptly tells the tragic story of three alabama tenant families. you must read this book. it is, in a word, significant.
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