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Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee
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Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941)

by James Agee, Walker Evans (Photographer)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,440145,214 (4.04)52
  1. 10
    Het einde van Europa : ontmoetingen langs de nieuw oostgrens by Irene van der Linde (gust)
    gust: Allebei boeken ontstaan uit de samenwerking tussen een schrijver-journalist en een fotograaf.
  2. 00
    I Could Read the Sky by Timothy O'Grady (gust)
  3. 00
    Something Permanent by Cynthia Rylant (hbsweet)
    hbsweet: Poetry inspired by Walker Evans photos.
  4. 00
    White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler (DromJohn)
    DromJohn: I just attended a John T. Edge lecture where he read his Oxford American article "LET US NOW PRAISE FABULOUS COOKS: From the Florida swamps, a cookbook that turned a slur into a badge of honor" which compared the two as two loving but shocking books about southern culture that reached gift book status which then soften the social commentary. The photographs in White Trash Cooking by William Christenberry may be as important as those by Walker Evans in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men..… (more)
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English (12)  Dutch (2)  All (14)
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
I need to finish this one soon... ( )
  amelish | Sep 12, 2013 |
This is a story so intense and devoted to its subject, it is almost holy writ. It is a sermon preached by the prophet Jeremiah, who preached while weeping in the streets of Jerusalem. The style is florid and ornate, not a stream but a torrent of consciousness. Some sentences are pages long musings on philosophy and writing and life which might make Faulkner smile with approval.

It is an attempt to accurately portray, in words and pictures, the lives of Tenant Farmers in the South in the worst of the Great Depression. He has an obsessive streak for description, he grabs your hand and wants you to feel everything, to get the smell ingrained in you, to look in their tired eyes and see their quiet dignity.

Evans has an equally astonishing photoset in the very beginning, but Agee's descriptions make them LIVE, and the descriptions and life and humanity within them unfold.

Agee scorns the label of their work as Art. Very well then, let us call it Life.


"Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us. The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through his great power from the beginning.
Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring prophecies:
Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent are their instructions:
Such as found out musical tunes, and recited verses in writing:
Rich men furnished with ability, living peaceably in their habitations:
All these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times.
There be of them, that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported."

"And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them.
But these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten.
With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their children are within the covenant.
Their seed standeth fast, and their children for their sakes.
Their seed shall remain for ever, and their glory shall not be blotted out.
Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore.
The people will tell of their wisdom, and the congregation will shew forth their praise."

Sirach (Apocrypha) 44: 1-15 ( )
1 vote HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
This version of an American classic, although paperback, has excellent picture reproduction. This is one of the most significant examples of a writer and a photographer, both accepted as major artists, working together on a book project, each applying their talents separately rather than one trying to illustrate the other.

For an important consideration of this masterwork see Stott's Documentary Expression and Thirties America.
  j-b-colson | Jul 18, 2011 |
"El libro que comentamos hoy es un clásico.
Fue publicado en 1936, como resultado del trabajo conjunto de un poeta, James Agee y de un fotógrafo, Walker Evans."de El ángel caido: http://www.elangelcaido.org/libros/030libro.html
  pepesaura | Apr 26, 2011 |
The writing has a stream of consciousness feel to it that is sometimes engaging, sometimes tedious. The photographs are beautiful, and Agee portrays the lives of these tenant families with great sensitivity. ( )
  beautifulsoup | Apr 30, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Agee, JamesAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Evans, WalkerPhotographermain authorall editionsconfirmed
Graf, KarinTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
To those of whom the record is made.
In gratefulness and in love.
J.A.
W.E.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618127496, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:38 -0400)

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Words and photographs describe the daily lives of typical sharecropper families in the American South.

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