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James Agee (1909–1955)

Author of A Death in the Family

36+ Works 7,113 Members 112 Reviews 16 Favorited

About the Author

Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on November 27, 1909 and educated at Harvard, James Agee crowded versatile literary activity into his short and troubled life. In addition to two novels, he wrote short stories, essays, poetry, and screenplays; he worked professionally as a journalist and film critic. show more Appropriately, he is best remembered for a work that combines several genres and literary approaches. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a documentary report on sharecropper life accompanied by vividly realistic photographs by Walker Evans, has been called "a great Moby Dick of a book" (New York Times Book Review). It may be considered an important precursor of the so-called nonfiction novel that was to gain prominence during the 1960s. The Morning Watch (1954), a novel in the tradition of portraits of artists-to-be, and A Death in the Family, a moving account of domestic life based on the loss of Agee's father belong to more conventional types of fiction. The 1960 dramatization of All the Way Home by Tad Mosel, won a Pulitizer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award; it was also cited by Life as the "Best American Play of the Season." Agee's work for the screen included his scripts for The African Queen and The Night of the Hunter. Agee on Film (1958-60) consists of a gathering of reviews and comments as well as five scripts. Prior to Laurence Bergreen's well-received 1984 biography of Agee, the principal source of information about his life was Letters of James Agee to Father Flye, a collection of seventy letters written by Agee to his instructor at St. Andrew's School and trusted friend throughout his life. The letters show Agee most often in a reflective, self-condemning mood. The final letters, written from the hospital where he was battling daily heart attacks, are touching, as are his sad reflections on the work he yet wanted to do. Agee died in New York of a heart attack on May 16, 1955. He was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for A Death in the Family. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Includes the names: James Agee, James Agees

Image credit: www.ageefilms.org

Works by James Agee

A Death in the Family (1957) 3,056 copies
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1939) 2,138 copies
The Night of the Hunter [1955 film] (1955) — Screenwriter — 182 copies
The Morning Watch (1950) 156 copies
James Agee: Selected Poems (2008) 63 copies
Helen Levitt (1980) — Author — 53 copies

Associated Works

The Best American Essays of the Century (2000) — Contributor — 780 copies
As I Lay Dying [Norton Critical Edition] (2009) — Contributor — 550 copies
Fifty Great American Short Stories (1965) — Contributor — 436 copies
The African Queen [1951 film] (1951) — Screenwriter — 297 copies
The Best American Essays 2004 (2004) — Contributor — 292 copies
American Religious Poems: An Anthology (2006) — Contributor — 163 copies
Many Are Called (2004) — Introduction — 109 copies
The Literature of the American South: A Norton Anthology (1997) — Contributor — 98 copies
A Way of Seeing (1965) — Contributor — 54 copies
Southern Dogs and Their People (2000) — Contributor — 39 copies
New Masses; An Anthology of the Rebel Thirties, (1969) — Contributor — 38 copies
Fifty Best American Short Stories 1915-1965 (1965) — Contributor — 36 copies
Philosophical problems of the social sciences (1965) — Contributor — 34 copies
The Yale Younger Poets Anthology (1998) — Contributor — 33 copies
Pulitzer Prize Reader (1961) — Contributor — 27 copies
The Best American Short Stories 1953 (1953) — Contributor — 15 copies
The Best American Short Stories 1958 (1958) — Contributor — 5 copies
Paras elokuvakirja (1995) — Contributor — 5 copies
Twenty-Three Modern Stories (1963) — Contributor — 4 copies
Le livre Terre humaine (1993) — Contributor — 3 copies


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Common Knowledge



A Death in the Family, published posthumously in 1957, is amongst the most beautiful books I've ever read (listened to - this was the audiobook). Agee's language use and the flow of his prose are things of wonder. In a book that takes place almost entirely within a few days, Agee patiently describes the acts and feelings of a family that has just lost a 36-year old husband and father, a good man, who drove too quickly, and who ended up in a ditch, killed instantly. I don't like writing book reviews, but I do want to commend this book and to recommend it in the highest possible terms.… (more)
ahef1963 | 67 other reviews | May 18, 2024 |
If you want a basic history of the california movie business from the silents to the advent of Cinemascope, here it is.
DinadansFriend | Mar 31, 2024 |
This was one of those books that was never on any of my reading lists but seemed like one of those American classics that I should have read. It's such a very sad story, it's hard to recommend....but the descriptive writing is unlike anything I've ever read. This story could be great for a book club discussion.
ellink | 67 other reviews | Jan 22, 2024 |
Reason read; Pulitzer 1958, TIOLI read a book with death in the title
I had this on my list to read at least twice before and I finally got it read. I did not know anything about the book and discovered that this is an autobiographical novel. The author's dad died in a car accident. In this story the death is reflected by the wife, by the brother of the deceased , by Rufus the son and his sister. It explores religion. The wife is Catholic, the father is an atheist. The author died before publishing the story. The story is set in Tennessee.
The setting is in the early 1900s. The automobile is new, many still get around by horse and wagon. It was rewritten by David McDowell who took liberties. Michael Lofaro maintains that the novel as published 1957 was not the version intended for print by the author. Lofaro discussed his work at a conference that was part of the Knoxville James Agee Celebration (April 2005). Having tracked down the author's original manuscripts and notes, Lofaro reconstructed a version he considers more authentic. This version, entitled A Death in the Family: A Restoration of the Author's Text, was published in 2007. I think I read the one by McDowell. And that would be the one that actually won the Pulitzer.
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Kristelh | 67 other reviews | Dec 30, 2023 |



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