- Publisher: Avon Books (Mm) (June 1980)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0380005697
- ISBN-13: 978-0380005697
- Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.1 x 0.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #574,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Morning Watch Paperback – June, 1980
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Top Customer Reviews
"The Morning Watch" is short--under 125 pages--but it is an unforgettable introduction to Agee's magisterial novel "A Death in the Family" (published posthumously in 1957) and a gem of a novel in its own right. It is easy to see why Flannery O'Connor so enjoyed "The Morning Watch" when it was first published, for Agee's clear-eyed understanding of his characters' fascination with violence and their coming to terms with their own possibilities for greatness would motivate many of O'Connor's own characters.
It is the story of a young man at an Episcopalian boarding school during a few hours on Good Friday, 1924. The boy and fellow students are awakened to sit vigil in chapel late at night. During this time, the boy wrestles with the concepts of his religious teachings, the meanings of the rituals and the depth of his faith. "But how can you say things when you only ought to mean them and don't really mean them at all?" Much of the book takes place in the narrator's mind as he struggles to maintain focus on his prayers and fights the distractions of the world around him and the wanderings of his mind. In the end, he experiences what is not quite an epiphany, but more of a deeper understanding by imagining the experience of Jesus in the last moments before his crucifixion.
The final part of the novel follows the boy and his schoolmates after the vigil as they sneak out and down to the river for a swim. There, they find and brutally kill a sunbathing snake. Although this is something that might fall into the realm of "normal" for young boys, and although the narrator does nothing to stop it, he is guilt-laden. Something has clearly changed inside him.
A Death In the Family is a very personal and important book for me, so when I read Daniel Woodrell's recommendation of The Morning Watch in the notes for Winter's Bone, I immediately ordered it. Even more so than A Death In The Family, this is an introspective book. On the surface, very little happens.Read more ›
Assuming that the young boy in "A Death in the Family" was closely based on Agee (which he was), and that the young boy in this book was as well (which he was) then this is basically the story of that same boy continued. In "A Death in the Family" he was just a little kid. In this one, he's twelve, but he's obviously the same person, and he frequently references his father's death which is described just as it was in "A Death in the Family." Obviously, that death was a central event in Agee's life, and much of his writing was about trying to come to terms with it.
Also in this book is a fictionalized version of Father Flye, Agee's close friend and the star confidante of the terrific collection, "Letters of James Agee to Father Flye."
This book is wonderful, even though in premise it's merely another account of growing up Catholic, which it seems the world has had its share of. It covers only a single morning at a Catholic boys' school, from waking up, to going to mass, to being tortured by the combination of religious guilt and hormonal inclinations, to ditching school to go to a swimming hole, to a horrific denouement that, although unbearably brutal, ties the book together in amazing ways and ends it with a feeling.Read more ›