Cotton Tenants: Three Families

Cotton Tenants: Three Families

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A re-discovered masterpiece of reporting by a literary icon and a celebrated photographer In 1941, James Agee and Walker Evans published "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men," a four-hundred-page prose symphony about three tenant farming families in Hale County, Alabama at the height of the Great Depression. The book shattered journalistic and literary conventions. Critic Lionel Trilling called it the "most realistic and most important moral effort of our American generation." The origins of Agee and Evan's famous collaboration date back to an assignment for "Fortune" magazine, which sent them to Alabama in the summer of 1936 to report a story that was never published. Some have assumed that "Fortune"'s editors shelved the story because of the unconventional style that marked "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men," and for years the original report was lost. But fifty years after Agee's death, a trove of his manuscripts turned out to include a typescript labeled "Cotton Tenants." Once examined, the pages made it clear that Agee had in fact written a masterly, 30,000-word report for "Fortune." Published here for the first time, and accompanied by thirty of Walker Evans's historic photos, "Cotton Tenants" is an eloquent report of three families struggling through desperate times. Indeed, Agee's dispatch remains relevant as one of the most honest explorations of poverty in America ever attempted and as a foundational document of long-form reporting. As the novelist Adam Haslett writes in an introduction, it is "a poet's brief for the prosecution of economic and social injustice." Co-Published with "The Baffler "magazineshow more

Product details

  • Hardback | 226 pages
  • 142.24 x 193.04 x 22.86mm | 430.91g
  • Melville House Publishing
  • Brooklyn, United States
  • English
  • 20
  • 1612192122
  • 9781612192123
  • 253,487

Review quote

Praise for James Agee and "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men " "A book of wonders--an untamable American classic in the same line as "Leaves of Grass "and "Moby-Dick"." --David Denby, "The New Yorker " ""Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" is . . . a classic work, an exercise in pure, declarative humanism. It will read true forever." --David Simon, creator of "The Wire" "The most copiously talented writer of my generation." --Dwight Macdonald "The most realistic and most important moral effort of our American generation." --Lionel Trilling "The most remarkable regular event in American journalism today." --W. H. Audenshow more

About James Agee

JAMES AGEE(1909-55) was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and was hired as a staff writer at "Fortune" in 1932. Two years later, his collection of poetry, "Permit Me Voyage," won the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. His book about Alabama tenant farmers during the Great Depression, "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men," appeared in 1941. Agee was later renowned for his film criticism, which appeared regularly in "The Nation" and "Time," and for co-writing the screenplays for "The African Queen" and "The Night of the Hunter." He died two years before his major work of fiction, "A Death in the Family," was published and won the Pulitzer Prize. Photographer WALKER EVANS (1903-75)was on loan from the Resettlement Administration when he began collaborating with James Agee. He joined the staff of "Time "in 1945 and shortly afterward became an editor at "Fortune," where he stayed for the next two decades. In 1964, he became a professor at the Yale University School of Art, teaching until his death in 1975. ADAM HASLETT (introduction) is the author of "Union Atlantic" and "You Are Not a Stranger Here." JOHN SUMMERS (editor) is the editor in chief of "The Baffler."show more