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Neutered Valentines

David Bromwich: James Agee, 7 September 2006

‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’, ‘A Death in the Family’, Shorter Fiction 
by James Agee.
Library of America, 818 pp., $35, October 2005, 1 931082 81 2
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Film Writing and Selected Journalism 
by James Agee.
Library of America, 748 pp., $40, October 2005, 1 931082 82 0
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Brooklyn Is 
by James Agee.
Fordham, 64 pp., $16.95, October 2005, 0 8232 2492 9
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... without limit, and, lacking the certainty of a completed thing, will never entirely disappoint. James Agee had a fortunate career on the face of it, as a New York freelance for almost two decades and then as a screenwriter. One of the large talents of American writing in the 1940s, Agee was a Southerner, from ...


Mary Hawthorne: The Luck of Walker Evans, 5 February 2004

Walker Evans 
by James Mellow.
Perseus, 654 pp., £15.99, February 2002, 1 903985 13 7
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... A decade-long resuscitation began with the 1960 reissue of his collaborative effort with James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, which galvanised a new generation of social idealists and photographers. Then came the reissue of his book American Photography in 1962; a MoMA exhibition, in 1966, of subway photographs he’d taken in the 1930s and ...

Short Cuts

J. Hoberman: The CIA’s Animal Farm, 5 July 2007

... a number of so-called ‘journalistic features’ for 20th Century Fox (which were praised by James Agee, among others, for their extensive use of location shooting). De Rochemont was also well connected to various government agencies. The House on 92nd Street dramatised the FBI’s role in arresting Nazi agents; its 1946 follow-up, 13 Rue ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The films of Carol Reed, 19 October 2006

Odd Man Out 
directed by Carol Reed.
September 2006
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... If the world should end tomorrow,’ James Agee wrote in the Nation in 1947, ‘this film would furnish one of the more appropriate epitaphs: a sad, magnificent summing-up of a night city.’ A little earlier and in another paper he had called the film’s second part ‘half-baked’, and what’s interesting is that there is no real contradiction between the points of view ...

A Particular Way of Looking

J. Hoberman: NeoRealismo, 21 November 2019

NeoRealismo: The New Image in Italy 1932-60 
edited by Enrica Viganò.
Prestel, 349 pp., £49.99, September 2018, 978 3 7913 5769 0
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... his material.Produced under Fascism in 1943, Visconti’s Ossessione (an unauthorised version of James M. Cain’s hardboiled novel The Postman Always Rings Twice) is generally considered the first Neorealist film, but it was Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1945), the first movie made after the war to represent the recent Italian past, that planted the ...

The End

Angela Carter, 18 September 1986

A Land Apart: A South African Reader 
edited by André Brink and J.M. Coetzee.
Faber, 252 pp., £9.95, August 1986, 0 571 13933 7
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Where Sixpence lives 
by Norma Kitson.
Chatto, 352 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 7011 3085 7
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... and open to hazard as those of the Tennessee sharecroppers described in the Thirties by James Agee in Let us now praise famous men. Other stories reveal small-town life as a hotbed of hypocrisy. Sexual relations are poisoned and poisonous everywhere from the farmstead to the gleaming suburb. And, bitterest of ironies, young men must die in ...

Here/Not Here

Wendy Steiner, 4 July 1996

... scar. How can the celebrity outsider maintain a sense of his identity, or painterly authority, when he is his own subject-matter and his audience sees that subject-matter as ‘other’, less than ‘us’? Basquiat’s solutions to this dilemma are often brilliant. In the triptych Zydeco (1984), for example, a cinematographer in profile looks through the lens of his movie camera ...


Rebecca Mead: Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher, 21 May 1998

Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia 
by Marya Hornbacher.
Flamingo, 298 pp., £12.99, March 1998, 0 00 255880 7
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... in character: Hornbacher crams her text full with quotations from Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, James Agee and Alice through the Looking Glass, adding footnotes that cite the medical or anecdotal literature – gobbets of prose which capture her sense of self, swallowed whole and regurgitated. From the dust-jacket on (Hornbacher is pictured, skinny and ...

What’s the problem with critical art?

Hal Foster: Rancière’s Aesthetics, 10 October 2013

Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art 
by Jacques Rancière, translated by Zakir Paul.
Verso, 272 pp., £20, June 2013, 978 1 78168 089 6
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... History of Ancient Art by Winckelmann in 1764 to the appearance of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and Walker Evans in 1941, his focus is on the arts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that is, on high modernism. His range of interests is impressive: Rancière delves into the poetry of Whitman, the acrobatic performances of the ...

Beefcake Ease

Miranda Carter: Robert Mitchum and Steve McQueen, 14 January 2002

Robert Mitchum: Solid, Dad, Crazy 
by Damien Love.
Batsford, 208 pp., £15.99, December 2001, 0 7134 8707 0
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Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don’t Care 
by Lee Server.
Faber, 590 pp., £20, October 2001, 0 571 20994 7
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McQueen: The Biography 
by Christopher Sandford.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £16.99, October 2001, 0 00 257195 1
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... by doing or seeming to do nothing. It was the fashion. Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Lee Marvin, James Coburn, and in England – and in a different, English way – Michael Caine, seldom did anything else. It was also a manner which could not always be easily distinguished from simple idleness. For the first 25 years of Mitchum’s career, his performances ...

Frognal Days

Zachary Leader: Files on the Fifties, 4 June 1998

Previous Convictions: A Journey Through the Fifties 
by Nora Sayre.
Rutgers, 464 pp., £27.95, April 1997, 0 8135 2231 5
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... with her writer parents and the people she met in their living room in New York: Edmund Wilson, James Thurber, Walker Evans, James M. Cain, Nunnally Johnson, S.J. Perelman, Dawn Powell, Joseph Mitchell and John O’Hara. Many of these celebrated figures, artists and authors approaching fifty at the start of the decade or ...

The Heart’s Cause

Michael Wood, 9 February 1995

The Beginning of the Journey: The Marriage of Diana and Lionel Trilling 
by Diana Trilling.
Harcourt Brace, 442 pp., $24.95, May 1994, 0 15 111685 7
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... that only a myth of shared ground will allow us to find whatever ground we share. The work of James Agee, Hannah Arendt, Fred Dupee, Mary McCarthy, Dwight Macdonald, Philip Rahv, Delmore Schwartz, Edmund Wilson – these are some of the names Mrs Trilling mentions – gave the myth one of the best runs it has had anywhere. The language of the myth ...

Good Fibs

Andrew O’Hagan: Truman Capote, 2 April 1998

Truman Capote: In which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career 
by George Plimpton.
Picador, 498 pp., £20, February 1998, 0 330 36871 0
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... as much as it does the world of Capote. And that is one of the book’s strengths: Plimpton, like James Boswell, is an enthusiast for the world he is conjuring; he knows it well, knows all the figures in the carpet; the people are for the most part his acquaintances too, and his way of arranging their words is bent by his own understanding of how it all ...

Sexual Subjects

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 21 October 1982

The Sexual Fix 
by Stephen Heath.
Macmillan, 191 pp., £12.95, June 1982, 0 333 32750 0
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Questions of Cinema 
by Stephen Heath.
Macmillan, 257 pp., £12.50, August 1981, 0 333 26122 4
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‘Sight and Sound’: A 50th-Anniversary Selection 
edited by David Wilson.
Faber, 327 pp., £12.50, September 1982, 0 571 11943 3
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... 20th, they should come to know and come to terms with a self-conscious sexuality too. Even Henry James, revising The American, first published in 1877, for a new edition in 1907, was moved to be more explicit about the meaning and motion in Newman’s discovery of his attraction to Madame de Cintré. Heath clearly does not like what he sees in capitalism, in ...

Goings-on in the Tivoli Gardens

Christopher Tayler: Marlon James, 5 November 2015

A Brief History of Seven Killings 
by Marlon James.
Oneworld, 688 pp., £8.99, June 2015, 978 1 78074 635 7
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... that sprang up in Kingston in the 1960s and 1970s.) The killings in the title of Marlon James’s novel – a novel that’s built around the attempt on Marley’s life much as Don DeLillo’s Libra (1988) and James Ellroy’s American Tabloid (1995) are built around the Kennedy assassination – turn out, after ...

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