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Letters of James Agee to Father Flye 2nd ed. Edition
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That said, to read James Agee, is to become obsessed by Agee, and to feel an extreme kinship with him such as few other authors could ever inspire.
"Letters of James Agee to Father Flye" is not a perfect book, but it is a magnificent one, full of beautifully expressed thoughts on writing, the writing life, spiritual belief, intellectual honesty, family, and success. I found myself frequently underlining passages in this book, talking about to everyone who would listen, and feeling a strong feeling about it that I can only compare with being young and smitten and with eating really good red chile--in other words, with being in love. I love this book. I love James Agee.
Any fan of his could read and enjoy this, as could any fan of good writing, but I believe that writers especially would benefit from his thoughts on becoming both a good person and being a good writer, on the main goals of writing---to discover a truth and to express that truth as clearly as possible---and on avoiding artificiality.
His rant against "smug safeplaying" in writing is worth the cost of the book just by itself.
The book's faults, I thought, lay in the latter portion in which he and Father Flye wrote back and forth to each other in verse, for weeks, and which got a bit tedious, and in some of Father Flye's footnotes and letters of his own which I think should not have been included.
Father Flye, by the way, was Agee's childhood priest, and a good friend of his, and the two wrote sporadic letters back and forth to each other for most of Agee's adult life.Read more ›
This collection of letters, first published in 1962, trace a remarkable, long (nearly 30 years long) deeply involved correspondence between Agee and a sympathetic Father Flye, met when Agee was not yet 16. Beginning with a letter written at fifteen in 1925, the letters run right up to May 1955 and Agee's death.
Agee met Father Flye when the young Agee showed up at St. Andrew's School, still deeply effected by the loss of his father two years previously, and he maintained a respectful attachment and affection to the Father and his family throughout his life. Agee wrote about his own father's death in A Death in the Family: A Novel and the story reminds us of the depth of the loss and how it shaped the young Rufus Agee on first meeting with Father Flye. This was before Agee dropped the hick nomenclature of his first name for the far more acceptable and urban James. Following a summer trip to Europe with Father Flye in 1925, Agee's ambitious side found an increasing confidence, and he soon began reading across a wide range of literature; poetry, books in translation, critism, contemporary novels. It's clear Flye's impact on Agee remained a touchstone throughout his life; the letters act as a sort of restorative and re-establishment to the writer as he thinks through his artistic responses to the world around him.
Agee was a challenging high-toned soul, and his unbridled personality is set off by Father Flye's settled, more soft-keyed Philosophy of Religion.Read more ›