A Death in the Family

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Vintage Books, 1998 - Fiction - 310 pages
3 Reviews
Forty years after its original publication, James Agee's last novel seems, more than ever, an American classic. For in his lyrical, sorrowful account of a man's death and its impact on his family, Agee painstakingly created a small world of domestic happiness and then showed how quickly and casually it could be destroyed.

On a sultry summer night in 1915, Jay Follet leaves his house in Knoxville, Tennessee, to tend to his father, whom he believes is dying. The summons turns out to be a false alarm, but on his way back to his family, Jay has a car accident and is killed instantly. Dancing back and forth in time and braiding the viewpoints of Jay's wife, brother, and young son, Rufus, Agee creates an overwhelmingly powerful novel of innocence, tenderness, and loss that should be read aloud for the sheer music of its prose.

"An utterly individual and original book...one of the most deeply worked out expressions of human feeling that I have ever read."--Alfred Kazin, New York Times Book Review

"It is, in the full sense, poetry....The language of the book, at once luminous and discreet...remains in the mind."--New Republic

"People I know who readA Death in the Familyforty years ago still talk about it. So do I. It is a great book, and I'm happy to see it done anew."--Andre Dubus, author ofDancing After HoursandMeditations From A Moveable Chair
  

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User Review  - MSarki - LibraryThing

Pretty good book, but not as good as hyped. Not an easy read mainly because it is written in a style too easy to read. Too much family for me, and I suppose that has the most to do with what I feel is ... Read full review

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About the author (1998)

Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on November 27, 1909 and educated at Harvard, James Agee crowded versatile literary activity into his short and troubled life. In addition to two novels, he wrote short stories, essays, poetry, and screenplays; he worked professionally as a journalist and film critic. Appropriately, he is best remembered for a work that combines several genres and literary approaches. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a documentary report on sharecropper life accompanied by vividly realistic photographs by Walker Evans, has been called "a great Moby Dick of a book" (New York Times Book Review). It may be considered an important precursor of the so-called nonfiction novel that was to gain prominence during the 1960s. The Morning Watch (1954), a novel in the tradition of portraits of artists-to-be, and A Death in the Family, a moving account of domestic life based on the loss of Agee's father belong to more conventional types of fiction. The 1960 dramatization of All the Way Home by Tad Mosel, won a Pulitizer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award; it was also cited by Life as the "Best American Play of the Season." Agee's work for the screen included his scripts for The African Queen and The Night of the Hunter. Agee on Film (1958-60) consists of a gathering of reviews and comments as well as five scripts. Prior to Laurence Bergreen's well-received 1984 biography of Agee, the principal source of information about his life was Letters of James Agee to Father Flye, a collection of seventy letters written by Agee to his instructor at St. Andrew's School and trusted friend throughout his life. The letters show Agee most often in a reflective, self-condemning mood. The final letters, written from the hospital where he was battling daily heart attacks, are touching, as are his sad reflections on the work he yet wanted to do. Agee died in New York of a heart attack on May 16, 1955. He was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for A Death in the Family.

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