AGEE by Peter H. Ohlin


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When Agee deed at the age of forty-five ten years ago, there were few to comment publicly upon his passing. Now, as Life has pointed out, there is a veritable cult of mourners and all sorts of legend-making apparatus clicking away- not, to be sure, on the scale of the Scott Fitzgerald revival, but still solemn enough. Since Agee's literary remains are even slighter than Nathanael West's (another figure who some years past underwent a similar resurrection), it is good to have the book here (a revised doctoral dissertation) to put everything in perspective. The author has five key chapters which deal sympathetically with the entire corpus: the poetry, the two novels (The Morning Watch. A Death in the Family), Agee's film criticism and film scripts, and that strangely beautiful, sprawling study of the Southern sharecropper, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. It also touches upon Agee's recently published Letters, and examines some of the articles he wrote for Time and Fortune. If the style and judgments expressed here are both innocuous and extravagant (see the absurd claims made for Agee's fiction), the book nevertheless, through copious reference to other critics, manages a fairly sound, rounded portrait, concentrating primarily on Agee's temperament, the almost archetypal waste and affirmation.

Publisher: Obolensky