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on September 21, 2016
One of the three books that have deeply influenced my life. From Agee's passionate prose and Evans's clear-eyed photographs, one can arrive at a deep understanding of what it means to be human, if understanding is a possibility.
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on April 8, 2015
The photos by Walker Evans in "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" are, in my judgment, American classics. They enable the families of three tenant farmers in the deep south of this nation to plead for our understanding. In the midst of America's emerging industrialization in the 1930s and early '40s, the tenant families are left behind. The photos convey that, with an earnestness and sense of hope-in-spite- of-hopelessness that evokes our hope for a country that will hear their plea, and respond. The photos are not illustrative. They accompany the text as a full partner -- indeed as "coequal, mutually independent, and fully collaborative," as James Agee himself puts it in the book's Preface.

The great 19th Century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer pointed out that our sight is an active, our hearing a passive sense. Walker Evans' photographs call us into an active involvement with three tenant families, engaging us in a deep perception of how life actually was for a large segment of our country. We are challenged "to understand" what Walker Evans is perceiving so well.

James Agee, in the written text itself, makes a unique contribution to American literature. One sentence in Part One: A Country Letter demonstrates that: "All that each person is, and experiences, and shall never experience, in body and in mind, all these things are differing expressions of himself and of one root, and are identical: and not one of these things nor one of these persons is ever quite to be duplicated, nor replaced, nor has it ever quite had precedent: but each is a new and incommunicably tender life, wounded in every breath, and almost as hardly killed as easily wounded: sustaining, for a while, without defense, the enormous assaults of the universe."

Masterful !
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on March 8, 2017
This book came highly recommended, but I could not get into it.
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on March 17, 2017
Great photobiography of an extremely difficult time in our nation's history. Everyone should read this book!
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on October 2, 2015
I was disappointed in this book and have to admit I didn't finish it which is something I rarely do once I start a book. I was expecting a narrative about the life of the people pictured. The book contains some very striking and sympathetic pictures of a family caught in poverty and isolation. However, the part I read was full of nothing but the trials, tribulations and attitudes of Walker Evans and his photographic partner. I should have stuck with it, I suppose, to get to the part where they finally encounter the family, but the early chapters became quickly became boring with the excessive coverage of themselves. Perhaps that becomes the point of the book--learning a little humility after encountering some genuine people struggling to exist.
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on September 17, 2016
This book is very well written, but is mostly an elegant inventory of the items which Agee encountered. There was less focus on the actual people and their lives than I was hoping.
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on July 10, 2017
Excellent!
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on May 23, 2014
Once you get acclimated to Agee's writing it's great. I have all the photos that are in the front of the book in another book of Walker Evan's photographs but the text really fleshes them out. Excellent book, you will feel like you're there.
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on May 24, 2017
Must have
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on October 26, 2009
So many words written about this wonderful evocation of rural hardship, need I add more. A dab of Whitmanesque enthusiasm, a nother of Joycean stream of cosciousness(replete with a'Molly Bloom' sense of 'yea saying' in the final paragraph) There's a poignancy to the descriptive powers of the author that beckons the photos. It's as if the prints of the day's photography had arrived and Agee had paused over them before committing his pen to his diary. Regrettably, the photo section of my volume too easily broke from the spine of the book on opening it for the first time. However good these photos are, in a sense, they are made subsidiary to the marvels of the written word, demonstrating the power of an awesomely equipped author over the visual artist. He rambles, he meditates, he anguishes over his imposition as outsider author,and its this close to the bone marriage of inspection to introspection which will take hold of a suitably sympathetic reader until the book's final breath(check the ruminations on the patterns of a cross-cut saw on woodgrain on p 128. Admittedly there are ethical questions regarding this anthropological enterprise, but he chooses to absolve his anguish about them by raphsodising and elevating the stricken mood of the place and the people; canononizing them in ways the photos never reach for. This is accomplished by bringing an attentiveness to every scent and scratch in such tedious detail that no casual user or rural occupant would contemplate. Such slumming in the poverty zone would rankle political correctness these days, especially given the supple muscle of enriched vocabulary far beyond the comprehension and scope of his subjects. But, in literary terms, if p.c were to censor such a voice, all of us would be impoverished.
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