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Brooklyn Is -- Southeast of the Island: Travel Notes

by James Agee Jonathan Lethem

In 1939, James Agee was working for Fortune magazine. Commissioned to write an article on Brooklyn for a special issue on New York, Agee moved to the Flatbush neighborhood for two months, later producing "Southeast of the Island: Travel Notes". As had earlier happened with the essay that was to become his classic portrait of southern farmers, "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men", Fortune declined to publish, and the essay remained unpublished until its 1968 Esquire appearance under the title "Brooklyn Is". In the words of Brooklyn-born novelist Jonathan Lethem, who provides the introduction to the essay in this volume, "the narrative rises up on the swirling imaged-junked cone of Agee's prophetic style to see the borough and its people whole".

Cotton Tenants

by James Agee Adam Haslett John Summers Walker Evans

A re-discovered masterpiece of reporting by a literary icon and a celebrated photographerIn 1941, James Agee and Walker Evans published Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a 400-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 Evans'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 Famous Men, and for years the original report was presumed 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."

A Death in the Family

by James Agee

This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is about Jay Follett, a loving husband and father, and his wife, whose hopes are dashed in a tragic accident.

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