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Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941)

by James Agee

Other authors: Walker Evans (Photographer)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,967207,053 (4.01)64
Words and photographs describe the daily lives of typical sharecropper families in the American South.
  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
    Many Are Called by Walker Evans (TheLittlePhrase)
  3. 00
    I Could Read the Sky by Timothy O'Grady (gust)
  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)
  5. 00
    Something Permanent by Cynthia Rylant (hbsweet)
    hbsweet: Poetry inspired by Walker Evans photos.

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» See also 64 mentions

English (17)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  All languages (20)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
This was a must read as a documentary photographer. Started in college but finished reading years later. ( )
  John_Hughel | Jun 18, 2022 |
  revirier | Dec 13, 2021 |
I can't honestly give this book a rating, or even much of a review. I found it irritatingly pompous and condescending -- to the readers, that is. Other readers may find it interesting, though.
  EricCostello | Mar 22, 2020 |
James Agee is a famous American novelist. This book however does not belong to his creative oeuvre. Instead, it is a sociological description of abject poverty in the United States during the 1930s in the aftermath of The Great Depression. With photographer Walker Evans Agee visited and documented the lives of poor Americans. The book is the ultimate example of observation and description, providing meticulously detailed description of every aspect of these people's lives. Perhaps the art of this type of writing has been made superfluous as photography and film seem to capture an even more lively impression, although film can barely convey the description of the smell of stale sweat. I assume few people will take the time to read this volume. The language is at times poetic. Oddly interspersed with seemingly irrelevant parts, the book is definitely not just a sociological study, but should be read as a type of artistic prose. ( )
  edwinbcn | Feb 19, 2020 |
This book was as difficult to rate as it was to read, which is to say, quite difficult.

In an effort to deepen my sense of place, I've been trying to read books that are set in Alabama and/or written by Alabama authors. I'd heard this book was a milestone in journalism, that it broke the rules and is still regarded as a dazzling opus for its braiding together of detailed factual reporting, complex prose narrative, and poetic inner reflection. And all that’s true. James Agee, who often places himself as a character in his descriptions of three white Alabama sharecropping families during the Dust Bowl, captures simultaneous feelings of guilt, disgust, compassion, and awe toward impoverished people and their lifestyles, feelings that weren’t being publically articulated at the time. Now, any magazine reporter with a byline has license to wax philosophical about the subject of an assignment; but in 1936, Agee was an anomaly. Walker Evans’ photographs further elucidate the baffling dichotomy of toughness and tenderness in sharecropping families.

All of that should earn the book four or five stars.

But it took a blessed eternity to read. And a lot of that reading was slogging through. As important as Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is (and as much as it expanded my knowledge base and deepened my sense of Alabama), on the whole it’s not a super enjoyable read. (At least not for a library-book borrower like me who needs to start and finish a book in one go, not dabble in it a bit at a time.) Ergo, three stars. ( )
  rhowens | Nov 26, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Agee, Jamesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Evans, WalkerPhotographersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Graf, KarinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Queval, JeanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Poor naked wretches, whereso'er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta'en
Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp;
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.
Workers of the world, unite and fight. You have nothing to lose but your chains, and a world to win.
To those of whom the record is made.
In gratefulness and in love.
First words
The house and all that was in it had now descended deep beneath the gradual spiral it had sunk through; it lay formal under the order of entire silence.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
AGEE, JAMES & EVANS, WALKER, Louons maintenant les grands hommes. Trois familles de
métayers en 1936 en Alabama,
Traduit de l'anglais par Jean Queval, Postface de Walker Evans (1960), Postface de Bruce Jackson (2012), Plon, 1972.

Edition originale en anglais en 1941, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Hougton Mifflin: Boston.
Publisher's editors
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Words and photographs describe the daily lives of typical sharecropper families in the American South.

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