This spare and highly readable critical biography examines the myth and the reality of James Agee, the enigmatic writer whose untimely death in 1955 reinforced the image that he himself had helped nurture. Agee's life is the story of a vocation--some would say a failed one. For, as Moreau points out, although his first renown was as a journalist, Agee had always considered himself a poet. Financial need forced him into journalism, and he suffered because of it. This study focuses on Agee's inner conflicts, especially his constant fear that he was prostituting his talents and misdirecting his creative energy. Yet he could neither turn down assignments nor treat them as mere hack work. Moreau describes how Agee would rewrite endlessly, even sometimes handing in revisions after an article had been printed. Recently Agee's writings on film have attracted attention, for, as Moreau points out, he was one of the first to see in cinema infinite possibilities as an art form. She recounts his seduction by Hollywood and his discovery there of a new way of life--one whose dissipation would claim him a few years later. Moreau is a sympathetic chronicler, yet she is not cowed by the Agee legend and doesn't hesitate to judge, sometimes harshly, as Agee himself did; if this study can be faulted for anything it is for not delving deeply enough into the life of this ""exceptional personality.